A person is bitter or happy depending upon what they think about. Bitter people rehearse resentments; happy people rehearse blessings. The same is true about love. The reality and depth of your love is related to your thought life. The Bible says that love “…thinketh no evil…” (I Corinthians 13:5).
This means we focus on the good rather than the negative qualities of a person. Until one learns to do this they will never love deeply or consistently. However, it’s more difficult than it sounds. Here’s a couple of reasons why.
Our corrupt human nature has a predisposition toward sinful thinking. The Bible says, “…from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts…” (Mark 7:21). We are so wicked that our thinking naturally gravitates to that which is evil. Sadly, it’s easier to criticize and gossip than it is to encourage and edify.
Satan orchestrates our surroundings and environment, the world, to tempt us to do and think wrong. My sinful nature is like the gasoline and the enticements of the world is akin to the lit match. When the two meet there is an explosion in our minds to not only entertain immoral, jealous, petty thoughts, but also to think of reasons we despise people that have hurt us.
So we have problems with our human nature apart from God, our surroundings in which we live that exacerbate the problem, but there is a third challenge. I don’t fully understand this, but the Bible teaches it and I accept it: Satan has access to our minds. He is able to put thoughts into your mind.
Again this regards not only moral matters, but also the way we view people. The last thing he wants you to do is to love and forgive people. Rather he wants you to be filled with resentment and anger. Here are several Scripture references that show his ability to influence our thinking.
The Bible warns us to not “give place to the devil”. (Ephesians 4:27) The Greek word for “place” is where we get our word “topography” from. It has the idea of an unoccupied piece of land. However, this is not physical property we give to him, but a part of our mind. This is where a stronghold of sin is established.
A stronghold is a fortress where an army gathers to reside and plan their attacks. The problem is that most of the time we do not recognize mental strongholds because we can justify and rationalize them. Bitterness, envy, lust, pride are all examples of strongholds we have in our minds. We allow the enemy to set up camp there and the result is bondage.
The enemy convinces us that “I can never love them”, “I will never forgive them”, “The hurt is too deep to go away”, “I don’t ever want to see them again”. The tragic thing is that these are thoughts we have about people closest to us, our family.
Your corrupt nature, the sinful environment that surrounds you, and Satan all cooperate to keep you in a bitter, angry, resentful frame of mind. Genuine love “thinketh no evil”. That doesn’t mean a person is too stupid to conceive the depth of the hurt. Not at all. It means that a choice has been made to focus on the good of the person rather than that which they did to hurt you.
If my wife and I had kept score on how often we had hurt each other and stewed in it our marriage would not have lasted beyond five years. No marriage is perfect; it’s made up of two sinners that hurt each other.
You must know that you have an enemy, the devil, (and, yes, I believe in a literal devil) that seeks to destroy your home by getting you to focus on the wrong things. Note the following passages of Scripture that denote his ability to influence your thoughts.
Satan appealed to Eve’s mind to sin. He lied to her and deceived her about God and His Word (See Genesis 3:1-5, 13).
Satan put thoughts in David’s mind to count his troops (I Chronicles 21:1-2). Even though his closest military officer warned him against it (he knew it was only feeding the king’s ego), David rejected his counsel. The devil had access to his mind to tempt him.
Satan spoke to Peter’s mind to deter Christ from the suffering of the cross which was necessary for our salvation. Jesus rebuked him for doing so, but when he spoke to him, he spoke to Satan as the source of his thoughts (Matthew 16:21-23).
When Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus it was the devil that put it in his mind to do so (John 13:2).
Satan was able to put thoughts in the mind of Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Spirit of God (Acts 5:3).
When we hear the preaching and teaching of the Bible the enemy is able to come along and steal the seed of His truth from our minds that we might not understand it and bear spiritual fruit (Matthew 13:19).
Here is the bottom line: Satan’s primary focus is on your mind. And he is able to put thoughts there that you are unaware of unless you test them with Scripture.
We are warned about the devil’s attempts to destroy us – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”. (I Peter 5:8) Often he “roars” in our minds with his lies and temptations.
More often, though, he comes quietly and stealthily as a deadly serpent by dropping thoughts and beliefs in your heart (II Corinthians 11:3). These include negative thoughts about people. Gradually over time you accept them until they form permanent presuppositions which lead to strongholds.
It’s a flag in my spirit when my mind is preoccupied with personal hurts and injustices of others toward me. As long as they are there, I will not love them, but begrudge them. Satan knows this and will put these thoughts in your heart to destroy your relationships.
Some of you have had negative conversations about people in your own mind for many years. Perhaps they are only a few weeks or months old. If you leave them unattended you will become an unloving, cynical critic that no one wants to be around.
Don’t let Satan have your mind. Fill it with the Word of God and focus on His blessings and the good things that people have done for you. The Bible teaches the doctrine of replacement – “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) You will become what you think about. God’s grace will enable you to see a fresh perspective on a person if you will let Him.
What kind of thoughts have you had about your spouse? Your parents? Your children? Your brother or sister? Beware that you do not allow the enemy to establish a stronghold of bitterness, aggravation, resentment and even hatred toward them. Ask God to help you replace those old feelings of anger with feelings of gratitude. He can do it, if you will ask Him to.
Someone wrote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you”.