Have you ever heard someone say you should wait thirty minutes after a meal to go swimming? Or that shaving your hair makes it grow back thicker? That you need to drink at least eight glasses of water per day to be healthy?
How about that it takes seven years for your body to digest gum? Or that if you drop a penny from the top of the Empire State Building, you could kill someone? That your hair and fingernails will continue to grow after you die?
Guess what! None of these things are true, but a lot of people still believe them. Whole generations of kids had to wait a half hour after lunchtime just to swim, but they didn’t need to! When a lie is believed to be true, it will affect your life as if it were true.
Missing some swimming time isn’t a big deal, but what if you believe significant lies that have serious implications? What if you buy into the lie that you’ll never be good enough? Or that you made too many mistakes? Or that God doesn’t really care about you? Or that you’ll never be able to stop doing what you don’t want to do?
A lie believed as truth will affect your life as if it were true.
There is a specific lie I have believed for as long as I can remember. Living as if that were true has been one of the biggest limiting forces in my life. For years, my strongest thoughts have always been about my shortcomings. I have always felt inadequate. No matter what anyone else said, my inner voice always screamed, No matter how hard you try, you’ll never measure up.
Why do I feel that way? Frankly, I’m not sure; I have never not felt that way. It seems self-doubt comes naturally to me, or it would if I was a natural at anything.
Essentially, this voice causes me to live a faithless life.
As I type these words about how we can control our thought life, my mind is racing. As David often wrote in Psalms (Psalm 42:5, for example), I am wrestling with my thoughts. I am battling feelings of overwhelming anxiety because I have said yes to too many things and overcommitted myself again.
Yes, my mind is out of control. I wish I could tell you I’m full of faith as I write, but my thoughts are full of fear.
But then I come back to what I know is true.
I swat at the swarm of thoughts flitting around my head and remember that I am not a victim of my own mind. I have power over my thoughts. I am not captive to them. With God’s help, I can make them captive to me.
While I know those truths, at the same time the reality is that I am a struggling thought warrior who has battled insecurity, negativity, fear, and anxiety most of my life. The battles don’t stop. Reading this won’t instantly solve the situations you face. The goal, especially for where you are in life, is to develop some tools, some weapons for the battles ahead.
Midway through college, something dramatic happened to me. Jesus changed my life. By God’s grace, he found me and saved me.
Soon I was being so transformed by my relationship with Christ that, while still very new in my faith, I sensed God calling me to be a pastor.
As God was building my faith, I felt him telling me I could make a difference in the world through his church. All my childhood insecurities and teenage self-doubts were being eclipsed by glimpses of hope. What do I mean? Well, here’s a little backstory for context:
When I was growing up, my family couldn’t afford name-brand clothes, so my mother bought used name-brand things at garage sales, cut the logos off, and sewed them onto my generic shirts.
I felt fake.
In second grade, I discovered I was color-blind. Not only could I not match my fake name-brand shirts to my no-name pants, I would never see the beauty of this world as others could.
I felt defective.
In a spelling bee with my classmates, I misspelled Mississippi. We had learned a song teaching us how to spell the word. And every time an i appears after the M, there’s only one of them and two of everything else. How could I possibly misspell Mississippi?
I felt stupid.
In fifth grade, a girl named Tiffany dumped me for a guy named Brian. Her reason? Brian had a motorcycle. I only had a moped. (Yes, twelve-year-olds in my small town drove motorcycles and mopeds. These were different times.)
I felt lame.
My father played minor league baseball. He was a professional athlete, and I wasn’t sure if I could even play in college.
I felt inadequate.
These isolated events, along with many others, formed my perception of myself into the reality I would carry into my newfound faith as a young adult.
I felt I wasn’t good enough.
So I learned to play it safe and avoid risks at all costs. I felt that, given any opportunity, I would fail. I quietly came to define success as just not failing.
Chances are good you have your own set of lies to deal with. Any of these sound familiar?
■ I am invincible.
■ No one cares about me.
■ I am the center of the universe.
■ I am missing out on all the fun.
■ I am destined to be famous.
■ Everyone is watching me all the time.
■ This is the best time of my life. Everything will be downhill from here.
■ Everyone else has it figured out.
■ Everyone else has it better than me.
■ What others think about me is more important than anything else.
■ No one could possibly like me because I’m too fat, too thin, too ugly, too whatever.
■ No one, especially my parents, can understand what I’m going through.
■ I will always be alone.
■ Things can never get better.
■ I’m not capable of changing.
■ Others wouldn’t love me if they knew what I’ve done.
The lies I believed nearly derailed my future.
How are the lies you believe holding you back?
But how do you recognize the devil’s lies? How can you overcome the negative messages you adopted in your earliest days? Start by asking yourself this question: What unhealthy and destructive conclusions do I believe about myself and my place in the world?
Satan’s strategy to win the battle for your mind is getting you to believe lies. 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.
The lie will keep you from living with joy and freedom and confine you to a less-than existence.
Living your life by a lie is a lot like believing a door is locked when it isn’t. Freedom is waiting for you, but you first have to commit to some personal lie detection to experience the abundant life Jesus came and died to give you.
Excerpted with permission from the newly released book Winning the War in Your Mind for Teens: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by Craig Groeschel with Josh Mosey. Published by Zondervan, 2023.
Craig Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of Life.Church, one of the largest churches in the world and the creator of the free YouVersion Bible App. The New York Times bestselling author hosts the top-ranking Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast and speaks to hundreds of thousands of leaders around the world annually through the Global Leadership Network. Craig and his wife, Amy, live in Oklahoma. Connect with Craig at www.craiggroeschel.com.