Winning the War In Your Mind by Craig Groeschel is spot-on with its subtitle: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life.
If you’ve never heard of him, Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of Life.Church, one of the largest churches in the world with multiple campuses. He’s a handsome, charismatic speaker and a best-selling author with 18 books under his belt, and this is his most recent.
He writes in a bright and breezy conversational tone, making this an easy read. The text is sprinkled with humor and personal stories. Like his sermons, there are many short, pithy soundbites throughout its pages, such as:
- “What we think shapes who we are.”
- “Decide to change your mind so God can change your life.”
- “You cannot change what you do not confront.”
- “A lie believed as truth will affect your life as if it were true.”
- “The goal is to think about what you think about.”
And my personal favorite: “Christianity has never been about behavior modification; it’s about life transformation.” (Can I get an amen?)
Insecure and Anxious– Really?
If you’ve ever watched Craig Groeschel preach, you would think he was someone who is extremely confident and comfortable with himself. But in this book he is truthfully transparent about his struggles with insecurity and anxiety. This came as a surprise to me because he projects an image of strength.
Even more surprising is his admission that he sought out professional therapy. “I knew I needed professional help,” he writes. “Yes, I am a pastor, and yes, I am in counseling. I believe it is biblical and wise to get help from the wise. Sometimes we need to talk through our stuff with someone trained in talking through stuff. Someone who has no agenda except to help us get well.”
I found his honesty so refreshing! There is still an unwarranted stigma on mental illness, even in the Church, and it takes courage to confess that you’ve sought therapy. Although the pandemic has brought increased awareness of the issue, we still have a long way to go. The message is simple: if you need help, get help.
But even without professional counseling, there is still much we can do to alleviate our “stinking thinking,” and that’s what this book is all about.
Remove The Lies, Replace With Truth
Winning the War In Your Mind is divided into four sections which form the basis of a biblical and scientific strategy for changing you thinking and your life.
Part 1 is called “The Replacement Principle: Remove the Lies, Replace With Truth.” Groeschel begins by pointing out that the life you live is a reflection of what you think. The problem is that you have an enemy who tampers with your thinking. “Satan’s strategy to win the battle for your mind is getting you to believe lies,” Groeschel writes. “If you believe a lie, it will hold you back from doing what God’s calling you to do. The lie will keep you living in shame from the past, when God wants to set you free for a better future.”
In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are told to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This means identifying the lies that have become strongholds. These lies are the root of our addictions and behavioral issues, and they must be confronted and replaced with the truth of God’s Word. That’s the first step to freedom: remove the lies, replace with truth.
Rewire Your Brain, Renew Your Mind
Part 2 of the book is “The Rewire Principle: Rewire Your Brain, Renew Your Mind.” In this section Groeschel takes a look at the latest findings in neuroscience, the study of how our brains work. He explains how the brain is a command center that directs our bodies through neurons linking together to send messages. The same message sent multiple times creates a neural pathway (he compares them to ruts in your brain).
This is all part of God’s design. “Your brain is designed to look for patterns and create neurological pathways to help you keep thinking the things you keep thinking and doing the things you keep doing…You were designed to smoothly efficiently create and fall into habits, into neurological ruts.”
That’s a good thing. The problem is those ruts can be created by both truth and lies. If a lie is repeated to you, either through the words of others or through negative self-talk, a neurological pathway is created. What’s worse, the reinforcement and repetition causes it to appear true. We then believe the lie, and it becomes a stronghold.
Trenches of Truth
The good news is something called neuroplasticity, which means our brain can create new neural pathways that can override the old ones. Think of remodeling a house: when we rewire a house, the old defective wiring is removed and new wiring is installed.
There are two ways to remove the lies: meditation and declaration. Groeschel calls this creating trenches of truth. Christian meditation is filling your mind with God’s truth, being strategic and deliberate about what you allow into your mind. You need to find and focus on specific Bible verses to create a new neural pathway. Declarations (or affirmations, as other writers call them) are statements of truth that you repeat to yourself; again, this repetition eventually creates new neural pathways. Both Scriptures and declarations can be reinforced by reading them, saying them aloud, and writing them out. Groeschel explains, “Repetition is what created the old rut. Repetition is what will create the new trench.”
Reframe Your Mind, Restore Your Perspective
This brings us to part 3 of the book, “The Reframe Principle: Reframe Your Mind, Restore Your Perspective.” Part of becoming a mature adult is realizing that most of life is out of our control. We can’t control what has happened or will happen, but we can control how we perceive it. We can identify and correct irrational thinking. Psychologists call this cognitive reframing. For the Christian, this means looking for God’s goodness in every situation. Our feelings don’t always speak truthfully, but God is always there and always cares. Groeschel encourages us to “know that there’s a different way to look at the world. We can choose to make our cognitive bias the goodness of God. We can look at our circumstances through the lens of his mercy and grace. There is not a moment when we have been forsaken or forgotten.” The only real control we have is the perspective we choose.
Revive Your Soul, Reclaim Your Life
The final section of the book is Part 4, “The Rejoice Principle: Revive Your Soul, Reclaim Your Life.” The focus here is on prayer and praise. Science has proven that prayer is like a physical workout for the brain and actually changes its chemistry. Romans 12:2 instructs us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It is amazing that we have the privilege to converse with our Creator. In prayer we turn our thoughts to the promises and power of God. “Your life is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts,” Groeschel writes. “Worrying and toxic thinking will change your brain and move your life in a direction you don’t want to go. Prayer changes your brain and moves your life in a positive direction.”
There’s also a purpose in praise. Praise causes us to acknowledge the goodness of God. Our circumstances may be bad, but our God is still good. Praise enables us to see what’s right, not just what’s wrong. “He’s got the whole world in His hands” is more than a nice song; it’s a fact. Groeschel points out, “A change of perspective leads us to praise God. And praising God changes our perspective.” The combined power of prayer and praise helps us to change the way we think– and that, in turn, will change our lives.
But Wait…There’s More!
Every chapter in Winning The War In Your Mind ends with exercises you can do to take action on the principles presented. There is also an appendix at the end of the book on “Bible Verses For Winning The War.” All in all, this is a very practical book that is highly recommended for anyone seeking to live the transformed life. These principles have worked for me, and they can work for you, too.