Over the last several months-oh, who am I kidding-the last 23 years, I’ve dealt with nightmares. Of all kinds. My mom has died in more ways than one. I’ve shown up butt naked to work. Dogs have chased me down dark alleys. I’ve fallen off cliffs into rocks. Witches have possessed my friends. And on and on. I usually thrash around in bed, yelling out, “No! No!”, or even cry, until Spencer has to shake me awake and remind me that it’s all in my head. And with that hope he gives me, I fall back to sleep, only to re-enter the terror of my unborn children having no eyes and Rapunzel length back hair. Yes, I’m being serious.
Y’all know how nightmares go. They consume, seeming as if they last the entirety of your sleep, when in reality nightmares maybe last five minutes. No matter how hard you fight against the monster, or dog, or how much you kick and scream, you just can’t wake up. It’s pure misery. Unfortunately for me, I’ve accepted defeat in having any sort of pleasant dream, as I don’t believe they exist. After all this time, I’ve settled in my mind that I am in fact a crazy person (no matter how much I protest) who is doomed for terrorizing sleep the rest of my life.
Ugh – I’m kind of basically insane. Why do you people read this stuff?
However silly this may seem, my nightmares really affect my life. I truly believe that when I sleep, Satan begins to attack my mind. My defenses are down. I can’t actively fight against the lies he tells me or the dark thoughts he places in my mind. I can’t speak truth to myself. I can’t cry out to God for help and endurance. Often I feel as though, Satan has control of my mind during those eight hours. He takes my fears and insecurities and twists and manipulates them into situations that seem SO real. Which is clearly terrifying.
And then in the mornings things are sometimes even worse. After a long night’s sleep of whatever evil Satan throws at me, I wake up to immediate negativity and dread for the day. I’m crippled with fear. Not the fear of someone jumping out of my shower to stab me. I’d rather that fear than the one I’m talking about. The fear of every day things. In fear, there is no peace, and when I wake up fearful, I’m peace-less the rest of the day. I fear other people’s approval of me. I fear my job. I fear my relationship with my husband. I fear my self confidence. I fear God’s love for me. I fear His forgiveness. Through fear, I lose the ability to be at peace with these things. I give people’s opinions, my job, my husband, myself, my sins the power to control me. A power that only belongs to God. It’s like Satan has already claimed my day before the alarm even goes off. And even in my best attempts to fill my mind with scripture that morning, I can’t shake the feeling of hopelessness throughout the day. I know this seems sort of dramatic, which y’all know I am a lot of the time, but it’s all the truth.
A few days ago, I unintentionally stumbled over a verse in Philippians. I was looking for something else and ended up reading the wrong scripture. Looking back now, I see God’s sovereignty in leading me to these words:
“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
This verse got me thinking. Whatever is true? Whatever is honorable? Just and pure? Lovely and commendable? What are those things exactly? I think I could come up with a few “Christian” answers for each, but I started wondering — what do those things mean to me? What do I believe to be lovely and honorable? And more importantly, what does the bible say about each of those adjectives? I want to know.
So, I think I’ll find out.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to seek and study what those words mean. If I desire to think about something commendable, then what exactly should I think about? I want answers from the bible. I want to define each of these terms in order to understand what God calls me to mediate on. What He calls me to think about. I want to know what Paul meant when he chose those specific words to describe what should be filling my mind.
Why, you ask? Because I want peace. I need peace. I shouldn’t settle for nightmares when the Savior of the world lives within my heart. I shouldn’t settle for fear when peace was bought on a cross. I can’t call myself a follower of Jesus if Satan has control of my day.
If you’re like me, you typically just read the specific verse you’re looking for and not the other text around it. My husband has taught me so much about reading the entire chapter, not just the verse that feels good. Context is everything, and there is so much wisdom and truth to gain when we take the time to read the entire text. Here are the verses surrounding 4:8 (MSG version):
“4-5 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.“
He will work me into His most excellent harmonies if only I fill my mind with truth. The Word of God promises that when I meditate and focus on truth, honor, justice, purity, love, and excellence, that His wholeness will settle down on me. He will fill me with His peace and with His goodness. I will know that He works all things for the good of those who love Him.
I want that promise from Philippians to be evident in my life. I want to tap into that reality. Christ died so I could live. He bought my life and I am His. Not only do I need to start living that way, but I need to start thinking that way too.
And then maybe I’ll stop having nightmares of Rumplestiltskin hiding in my washer when I go to do laundry.