Breaking cycles is a lifelong journey full of adventures and misadventures. One cannot condemn oneself when one fails and one cannot take the glory for one’s successes. It’s grace that we are carried through and it’s grace we receive when we need it.
Breaking cycles requires vulnerability. It means we must open our hearts up to new ways of thinking and patterns and take risks at doing something new. We might fail or we might succeed, but we won’t know unless we try.
One of the most challenging aspects of vulnerability is the risk our heart’s take. And vulnerability isn’t weakness, it’s allowing yourself to be known for who you are. It’s inviting someone from the foyer of your heart into the heart of the home, allowing them to see the dishes stacked on the counter and dried food on the table. (Has anyone else had a guest absentmindedly scrape food off your table?)
You see, when I break cycles, I need to practice living a new way. I need to step out from being afraid of failure or repeating what I don’t want to repeat. It requires a certain level of vulnerability coupled with a great deal of bravery.
But it’s dangerous and I’ve been burned. I’ve been like a moth to a flame, drawn in close by the lightness and the brightness of someone’s acceptance only to be seared by their rejection.
I’ll never ever forget the times when I had to bear the brunt of someone’s confession:
It was easy for me to talk to new people and not for them and they were offended.
I cared too much about raising my kids with a consistent set of standards and it made them mad.
I wasn’t grateful enough and caused their depression.
I wasn’t the type of person they were hoping I would be.
These incidences find their place in my memories and make me wonder if breaking cycles is worth it. But for grace.
Last week, we talked about using our spiritual weapons to tear down strongholds and how important it is to remember the power that lives in us because of Christ in us. This week, it’s about grace.
The kind of grace that transforms and gives us the ultimate ability to break cycles, bring peace to painful memories, and overcome failures.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8.
This verse reminds us that God is able. He is able when emotions run together and doubt and despair overwhelm us. His grace comes to us because we come boldly to his throne room.
Will you? When your cycles seem to be breaking you instead of you breaking them, will you run to him and admit your need and reach for his grace?
You can break those cycles. You can be a cycle breaker. This is part of your identity in Christ because you are a new creation because of the work on the cross. You don’t have to stay locked in the cage of your habits and patterns; you are liberated to enjoy the abundance that God has for you.
The abundance of things like grace and goodness, kindness and love, strength and steadfastness.
But. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it though. Sometimes we feel weak and broken down by our own failures and by other’s expectations.
Our weary hearts need a soft place to land and we have that in the arms of God receiving grace when we need it.
How does this work?
We catch our minds scattering down a path that leads us away from God. So we stop, we gather our thoughts, toss out the ones that don’t bring honor to Jesus, and then run right to the throne room and ask for grace. And our thoughts change from speculation and what if’s to settling on truth.
Or we know we’re going to see the person who’s words wounded us, so we pray ahead of time and ask God to remind us that he is near and then when we see that person, our spirits pray for grace while we interact and we see God move in us because we’re loving and responding with grace.
Breaking cycles draws us into a transformative relationship with Christ because we practice vulnerability with Him first, sending down deep roots into his love so that we can break those cycles that tear us and our relationships apart. We need not fear vulnerability for it is there that we find what we’re really looking for: strength to break cycles and live our lives as new creations because of Christ.
Spend some time in prayer today laying out the areas that you need to break. Be honest and vulnerable.
Ask for grace to help you break the cycle and then believe that God has met you.
Breaking cycles is like fighting a battle. It’s a battle for your heart, mind, present, and, mostly, your future. You might be thinking, “Duh, I’m lying bruised and bleeding on the field and every time I get up, I get knocked down.”
Yes. It feels like that. It feels like loss and after loss. And it feels like you carry the losing banner everywhere you go.
Breaking cycles and patterns of thought sometimes feels like you lose more than you win because it’s a series of small skirmishes amidst decisive battles.
But we’re not alone. We might be surrounded by the enemies of our pasts or our own imaginations, but God says he prepares a table, a feast for us, in the midst of our enemies. He invites us to rest and in the respite we’re given the strength to stand and fight again.
The Psalmist describes God as a warrior riding the clouds in response to your cry. Psalm 18.
The breaking cycles weapons are not a pick yourself up by your bootstraps and keep a stiff upper lip and all that rot. It’s so much more.
Our weapons are the power of a heart fixed on the power of God. They’re spiritual weapons that enable you to tear down any thought, imagination, or mind-stronghold so that God’s truth can penetrate your heart.
The cycles and negative thought patterns begin before we’re even aware of what’s happening in our minds. It’s called a cycle because it’s become an automatic response. This is why one of the breaking cycle steps involve awareness of what’s in our minds. One way to interrupt the patterns of thoughts is by using your spiritual weapons to tear down thoughts and imaginings that don’t line up with God’s truth.
How do we do this?
We pray scripture.
“In Jesus name, I tear down the pride that’s creating this stronghold.”
“According to Jesus’ power, I tear down the idea that someone is spreading rumors about me.”
Listen, we walk and live in the flesh. We live in this world. We still have the effects of our past in our present. Yet, we’re also not of this world. This world is not our home, but this is where we live.
What would happen if we were to apply the benefits of being a citizen of heaven to our life in this world?
Wouldn’t we reach for heavenly weapons rather than for our usual way of dealing with problems that plague our minds?
Couldn’t we share the power of God with others by applying the power of God to our own minds and praying for other’s who are locked into patterns of thought that keep them trapped in strongholds?
“For though we walk in the flesh (driven by our natural responses), we are not waging war according to the flesh (self-preservation). For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh (revenge, back-biting, vindication), but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (parentheses, my addition)
Jesus is our High Priest. He intercedes for us. And it’s because of him that God sees us as holy and righteous and it’s because of him that we can go directly to God and receive the grace that we need in the exact moment we need it. Hebrews 4:12-16.
There is a light that flows out like a river from God. He invites you to step into it, arms thrown back, and let that light overtake every single aspect of your mind and heart. It’s in that position where strongholds tumble.
It’s a battle of which you’re assured victory. You might feel as though you’re losing more than you’re winning, but you win when you’re faithful. I heard a best-selling author assert that your successes are built on your failures, but I proclaim that your successes are built on faithfulness.
It’s your faithfulness in trusting God and his faithfulness in directing every one of your steps while you’re breaking cycles.
Prepare your heart for the battle by studying the Armor of God. I recommend Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God study.
Think of a situation that sets your mind to setting up strongholds because of false imaginations and then pray 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Out loud. And name what’s keeping you bound. Speak to it in Jesus’ name.
Take time to rest in God’s abundant love for you. That’s where you find your strength to stand and fight the battle.
We use different filters in photography and post-processing to neutralize a bright scene or enhance blue skies, or draw the eye to a focal point. I have created presets for bringing out the eyes, whitening teeth, and getting rid of pesky under-eye shadows. Presets or filters applied the right way enhance the photo.
While it’s fun to play around with filters in Lightroom or Photoshop, filters used to hide the truth compete with the authenticity and transparency God desires in relationship with him.
Hebrews 4:12-16 tells us that everything is exposed before God, even the things we don’t want him to see or acknowledge to ourselves that they exist in our heart.
The Psalms are filled with raw, unfiltered emotion before God and that’s okay. We must have a way to express the raw, unfiltered emotions that navigating this life stir in our heart.
But, when we’re in the renewal and transforming process, a filter is an absolute necessary in training our hearts and thoughts into new patterns.
When we use God’s word as a filter for our lives, we don’t filter God’s word through our opinion, but our opinion and point of view through God’s word. And if there’s anything within us contrary to God’s word, then we readjust our point of view to God’s, we don’t readjust God’s point of view to fit ours.
We find the steps woven throughout the Bible and while this series includes practical steps to take, there also needs to be a foundational understanding of God’s love for you and your identity in him.
Philippians 4:8 is one of the filters we can use to filter our thoughts so that we generate new thoughts for our regenerated heart.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
I run my thoughts through this filter like I would run my raspberries through a sieve in order to separate the sauce from the seeds. I ask myself if what I’m thinking is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, or praiseworthy. Using Philippians 4:8 keeps God’s word at the forefront of my mind and keep my mind pointed to Jesus’ ways.
When we consider true in the biblical sense we refer to true conduct, sincerity, uprightness, and honesty. We can be totally and completely true and honest with God about our hurts, anger, and frustration.
Philippians 2:3-4 speaks of looking to others interests and not doing anything out of vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself.Honorable thoughts are thoughts are are filled with consideration, deference, and fair.
There’s a growing demand for justice in our world, but let’s strip it back to the Greek definition of just which is morally righteous, impartial, and upright. Are your thoughts moral? Impartial? Upright? Or are you finding your thoughts filled with revenge or showing favoritism? Jesus declared that even if we think hateful thoughts we commit murder.
Pure thoughts are innocent and blameless. Blameless. I can’t tell you how many times my thoughts are filled with blaming others for my problems. If you want to break free of the victim mentality that keeps you hostage, start by developing thoughts that don’t point the blame.
Lovely thoughts are thoughts that are friendly toward something or someone. Lovely thoughts are pretty difficult when we’re harboring unforgiveness and resentment towards someone or something. By filtering our thoughts through loveliness, we are made aware of any lingering vestiges of bitterness.
Do you speak well of your enemies or situations or are you full of grumbling and revenge? Commendable means to speak well of. The key to being able to thinking on things that are commendable is replacing a grumbly heart with a grateful heart by focusing on God’s character and presence during and despite the difficulties we face.
The Greek word for excellent refers to goodness of actions and virtuous deeds. Our actions are born out of our thoughts. What you think is how you act. If your thoughts are vengeful, you might just find those words you don’t mean to say, but mean in your heart, to fly out of your mouth like a dagger to wound and maim.
Worthy of Praise
Praiseworthy. Are your thoughts worthy of praise? Eventually, as you filter your thoughts through the other commands in this verse, they will be worthy of praise. Anything that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and excellent are praiseworthy. But the previous descriptions give color and nuance to this passage.
Paul is calling us to action in Philippians 4:8. We don’t have to remain stuck in unhealthy patterns of thought, but can be set free as we progressively apply these principles to our minds.
Freedom comes by way of walking in the freedom that God made available with Jesus’ death and resurrection. So we practice. Every day. Every minute. Every second.
Then we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to do his renewing work in our minds.