I hate bugs. I really, really hate bugs. On my top ten list of things that motivate me to push others aside in a rush to find the nearest exit, bugs would definitely make the list.
I’m not sure where this hatred of insects began. I don’t remember a truly traumatic experience related to a creepy crawly or having a run in with a poisonous furry-legged spider. In fact, I quite loved Charlotte’s Web, and (spoiler alert) I did shed a few tears when she passed.
But still my detestation in the real world remains. I feel as if it was always there, that I instinctively knew from my very earliest of days that human contact with these much smaller specimens would simply never be something I would tolerate in my life.
When I do see a bug crawl near my feet or a spider’s web in a hallway or even see footage of an exotic arachnid on the Discovery Channel, my response varies from screaming to sprinting to speaking in tongues. And if one dares to trespass into my home, there will be consequences. In the words of Liam Neeson, “I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you,” because in the words of Kevin McAllister, “this is my house; I have to defend it.”
A certain slimy silverfish did not get the memo though. It was early in the morning when I first noticed his many silver legs wriggling on my living room wall. Within seconds, I had insect spray in hand, drowning him in half a bottle’s worth of toxic chemicals, all while shouting impassioned cries of a soldier in the heat of battle. In hind sight, it may have been overkill. But kill it did. And it also issued a strong warning to any other critters tempted to trespass: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE.
I backed that declaration with a bold offensive move: Within minutes of the silverfish’s ultimate demise, I had ordered on Amazon half a dozen insect repellent sprays and plug-ins and contraptions, building up my arsenal on the war against creepy crawlies.
It’s ironic, actually. I will stop at nothing to protect my home from pests, but will tolerate all sorts of pestering thoughts in my mind that seek to rob me of precious valuables such as peace, joy, strength, hope, faith, and love. If only I showed the same initiative in my mind against negativity that I have in my home against creatures that, for the most part, offer me no true harm. Thoughts of discouragement, loneliness, anxiety, fear, doubt, shame, greed, jealousy, lust, anger and bitterness on the other hand could actually prove fatal to my future.
A couple weeks ago, I had some space to pray and reflect on an unusually quiet plane ride. I began asking Jesus why I had felt discouraged the past month when there were so many things to celebrate and express deep gratitude for. I should be thankful and cheerful and hopeful, but instead I was stressed and frustrated and easily irritated. The only words I could find to explain this strange phenomenon taking place in my soul was that “I just didn’t feel like myself.” I was in a funk, and I wasn’t sure who or what to blame for it.
And as I prayed, I felt the Holy Spirit show me a picture of my mind as a dark and unoccupied room. I walked to the hallway, leaned my hand in and turned on the light switch. Suddenly, the entire room was illuminated, revealing spacious quarters decorated beautifully and ready to receive guests, except for one problem. In fact, not just one problem but dozens of tiny problems. Bugs. The room was infested with swarms of spiders and ants and yes, even slimy silverfish standing their ground on the walls and dangling from the chandelier and perched on the bookshelves. Agh, I hate bugs. I really hate bugs.
The Holy Spirit used this image to shed light on some very real “bugs” that were creeping and crawling in what would otherwise have been a tidy and cleansed mind. Simple thoughts of doubt and anxiety and fear had crept in, and if I was going to reclaim the mind of Christ it would begin with a little exterminating on my part.
And so the rest of that weekend, I began identifying small negative thoughts, the unwelcome critters of the mind, and with ferocious passion began eradicating them from my soul. After all, this is my mind. I have to defend it.
If you were to examine the condition of your thought life, if you were to take some time in prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to shed light on the space of your soul, what would you discover? Are there a few insects of insecurity lingering around that have outstayed their welcome? A few cobwebs of covetousness that need to be dusted off? An ant trail of anxiety needing to be sprayed away? A crawling centipede of cowardice that simply must be eliminated? Dear friend, is it time for a little exterminating of your own?
I would dare to say if you are living and breathing there probably are a few mind pests that need to be terminated from your thinking, and I suppose you won’t be searching Amazon anytime soon for a thought repellent or a negativity eliminating contraption. You will need different tools, exterminators of a specific kind. Below is my best go-to devices for planning for your very own soul pest control. These are tried and true in my own thought life, and more importantly, laid out plainly for you and me in the perfectly practical and powerfully personal pages of Scripture. Happy exterminating, my friends! After all, this is your mind, and only you can defend it.
Pest Control for the Mind:
- Meditate on the Word of God. This may sound too simple to be true, but nothing gets rid of unwanted thoughts more quickly and more effectively than combatting bad patterns of thinking with the truth found in the Bible. Genuine and quality time reading, studying, meditating on and praying God’s Word squashes stubborn mind pests.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to shed some light. Some things we just don’t know, we don’t know. When you identify a negative thought, ask the Holy Spirit to show you how it got in your thinking in the first place. You may be surprised at what He reveals. The origin of your discouragement or weariness or fear may come from unexpected places: a childhood experience, a YouTube subscription, some social media stalking, a song you’ve been playing on repeat, a conversation with a co-worker, unresolved hurt from someone close, lack of sleep, self-imposed pressures, a recent disappointment, etc. Don’t just squash the one bug you find, take a look around and see if there are any cracks in the walls or open vents in the ceiling or holes in window screens that are the cause of your current mental bug problem.
- Have a real conversation with a real person. If you find yourself unable to shake a certain fear, worry, insecurity, doubt, shame or envy… you need to call in reinforcements in the form of other brothers and sisters in Christ who are safe and wise to talk to. Sometimes, simply talking it through with someone sucks the very life of that thought you couldn’t seem to kill on your own.
- Expose yourself to the right messaging. We live in a world where we are constantly inundated with messaging from social media to instant downloads to streaming devices to app notifications to TV programming to billboards to movie previews to Spotify. But just because we have all the information we could ever want at our fingertips doesn’t mean we are all that well informed. Mass amounts of messaging don’t make us smarter or happier or even better human beings. It’s not merely easy accessibility or current popularity that makes something worth our attention; it’s whether or not it benefits the health of our souls. Pay attention to what you are giving your attention to. Have quality standards when it comes to what commands your focus. Choose to expose yourself to things that inspire goodness, ignite hope, merit laughter, challenge the status quo, awaken bravery within, and bring out your very best.