There are three things about us that significantly shape the course of our lives: what we think, what we feel, and what we want. The way in which we handle our thoughts, our feelings, and our desires determines not only our path but whether that path is joyful and fulfilling or fraught with discontentment.
Our feelings are vital, but ought to be subservient to our thoughts.
God created us as thinking and feeling creatures, and therefore both are part of being made in his image. That is why both thoughts and feelings are vital components of true faith. A grasp of God and the gospel that is solely intellectual is barren of the relational joys that God desires us to have with him. On the other hand, if our faith is informed primarily by who we feel God is rather than by careful study of Scripture, we will have an inaccurate picture of his character. That said, it is clear from Scripture that feelings are meant to be subservient to thoughts rather than the reverse.
...it is clear from Scripture that feelings are meant to be subservient to thoughts rather than the reverse.
- Proverbs makes a connection between righteous living and careful thinking: A wicked man puts on a bold face, But the upright gives thought to his ways. (Prov. 21:29)
- Also made clear is that harmful naiveté is overcome by using our minds: The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. (Prov. 14:15)
- However, later in the book is another proverb concerning our thought life that seems to contradict everything we’ve just looked at: Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. (Prov. 28:26)
Thinking is wise, and giving careful thought to our ways is godly, but relying on our thoughts as authoritative is foolish. In other words, while we are to use our minds in all we do and plan, we are to submit all those thoughts and actions and plans to the lordship of Christ, which is the way to “walk in wisdom.” Doing so is often a struggle, however, because even as believers we are so prone to self-reliance. We all naturally want to be in charge of our own lives, and because that’s the case, we miss the contrast Solomon makes here. Either we can trust in our own mind or we can walk in wisdom. Those two options are mutually exclusive.
A wise woman pursues single-mindedness, which means she seeks to make her chief aim in life the glory and enjoyment of God. A foolish woman, on the other hand, is double-minded and content to stay that way.
Wise women may not yet have arrived at single-mindedness, but they want it, and they go after it, and they take James’s instructions (James 4:8) to heart by actively seeking to cleanse their hands (what they do) and to purify their hearts (what they think and feel and want). There are things in each of us that dilute our heart purity. What is it for you? Well, one way to know is to consider what rules your thoughts when you lie awake in the middle of the night, or where you go in your mind when you crave a quick-fix mental escape from stress, or what tends to obsess you.
We think of an obsession as a fixation on a desirable outcome or object, but there is something spiritually dark about obsession. It can be a foothold for the Devil. Obsessive thoughts are those that hook us; we can get caught on them and find ourselves unable to let go, even when we want to. Although we often can’t recognize the root of the problem, we can be sure that underlying obsessive thinking is an out-of-control desire to master something or someone, which springs from doubts about God’s mastery of the situation or even doubts about God himself.
Wise women guard their minds from obsessive thoughts by trusting God and his sovereign control at all times over all circumstances.
The Blessings of Thinking Biblically
There are particular blessings enjoyed by women who practice wise thinking. To the woman who sets her mind on God comes unruffled peace: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isa. 26:3). Added to peace is the promise of real living: “To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).
There is also the promise that as we present our minds to God’s Word for transformation, we will discover that God’s ways with us are wonderful: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
Adapted from A Woman's Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything by Lydia Brownback.
Just consider the roller-coaster ride of emotions we can experience in the course of a single week (or, for some of us, a single day): anger, love, frustration, joy, sorrow, annoyance, irritation, fear, anxiety, peace, satisfaction, exultation, discouragement, happiness, fulfillment, dissatisfaction, anticipation.
Our desires—the things we want—tend to govern our lives and our choices. For that reason, it is important that our desires get formed in a biblical mold.