We use our imaginations all the time.
And we don’t think anything of it… pardon the pun.
We have been told since we were children that using our imaginations is a great thing. Even Sesame Street told us to do it. Willy Wonka told us that living in our imagination we would be free. But he was a fashion challenged recluse with the moral compass of a sewer rat so we will give ourselves permission to discard his advice.
We use our imaginations in the same way a wind surfer uses his sailboard. We know where we want to go, we just make our thoughts go in that direction. I remember as a child reading a book by Monica Dickens, the granddaughter of Charles Dickens. She was writing a semi-autobiographical account of the various jobs she had had as a child and she talked about the ‘endless possibilities of the inside of one’s own head’. That quote stuck with me because it resonated. As a child, I spent most of my free time either reading or imagining other places where I would not have to face the daily pain I lived with. It is where I learned to hide my true thoughts and desires, and in fact to hide my true self. It is where in fact I found that I could be totally at peace because nobody else could control me there, I was king of my own thoughts.
The only trouble with imagination is that it is driven by our hearts and if our hearts are corrupt then so our imagination will be. I was not saved at that point, so my thoughts were corrupt. But I had developed a stronghold there almost literally. So much so that when I was much older and living in a cult, that stronghold became even moreso my place of refuge. God had been replaced by evil overlords claiming to be his representatives. So when it came time to recognise that this stronghold was in fact defiling me and was not God’s will for my life, the struggle to let go was enormous. It wasn’t until I began to experience physical reactions to the many emotional struggles I had in my imagination that I realised what it was doing to me. My mind was not just a stronghold, it became a ‘mighty tower’ the very thing that scripture tells us is the place that God is supposed to inhabit. I had made an idol out of my imagination.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
I was doing some research on witchcraft recently and read something which really piqued my interest. I was intrigued by a video by a Christian lady who had been a witch before she was saved. This lady explained how she used to work and I thought I would just check out whether this was real or not. I would not encourage visits to occult websites by the way, they are not somewhere anyone should spend a lot of time. A witch’s blog was describing that two of the main ingredients needed to cast spells are strong emotions and intent. Apparently, demonic forces can be summoned simply by these two things and coupled with the words which are used, curses and spells can be cast over others. Now the extent to which this is successful (or even viable) is beyond my ability or my desire to prove, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was the case. When Trump came to power in the U.S., there were a bunch of witches who used pictures of him coupled with various wiccan accoutrements to curse his person and presidency. I would imagine there was a great deal of intense emotion and intent behind those spells.
Imagination often elicits strong emotion, and of course we use intent to control our imaginations. We picture what we want to picture in our minds and make the characters say and do what we desire. It is a potent mix, and one which human beings have used to their destruction and blessing. The imagination can create horrific scenarios as well as things which are of great benefit to ourselves and others.
Scripture gives us a great deal of direction when it comes to our thoughts. Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can know the good, perfect and acceptable will of God. In fact, we are also urged to ‘have the mind of Christ’ by Paul.
6 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:16
Romans 8:6 tells us that to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. That right there friends is the prescription to end depression. I don’t say this lightly because I have struggled with depression since I was a child. But I also know that anti-depressants are not going to fix what ails us as human beings. We are carnally minded if we don’t have the mind of Christ and if we are not born again. We need to be cleansed by the washing of the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26).
The word of God calls us to be sober-minded, to be single-minded and to be sound-minded. We are to be of the same mind towards one another and to be like-minded and to set our minds on things that are above. These are all clear and direct calls to train our minds and our imaginations to godliness.
Further, we are told that we are to bring every thought to captivity to Christ.
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
2 Corinthians 10
These are serious words to consider and digest. Our imaginations are not our own, although we often keep our deepest imaginings secret from others. In truth, much of what goes on in our imaginations if it were brought to light would be pretty shameful. I know that my imagination has been having a field day over the years until God showed me only recently that in fact we can be defiled by our thoughts.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
If you do a word study of defilement in the bible, you will see that in the Old Testament there seem to be three main ways you could be defiled, through dead bodies, through blood and through idol worship. There were other ways which involved mixture and eating wrong foods as well. But in the New Testament, Jesus said that it was not what went into a man that defiled him but what was in his heart.
4 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
As you can see, evil thoughts come from the heart of a man, or his mind. We can be defiled by the sins which occur in our imaginations. Jesus told us that even if a man lusts after a woman in his heart he has already committed adultery or fornication with her. This is powerful stuff. It means that the Bible is telling us something that even practitioners of occult works understand and use to their own and other people’s detriment. If we think a thing as far as God is concerned it is already done. If our intentions are to sin and we imagine that sin and presumably ‘feel’ that sin, then we have sinned.
Therefore, imagination is a potent tool which is not to be toyed with. Nor can we own our imaginations and claim that we can play around inside our own minds without being accountable to God for what passes through them or what stays and is employed by us to act out various fantasies.
Every thought leads to an action. Even imaginary ones. Our actions may be those of omission rather than commission. For example, if you are spending so much time imagining revenge on an enemy and not giving your attention to things that require it, you will make mistakes, miss things, not do your work properly, or even cause an accident. I can’t tell you the numbers of times I have been mentally absent whilst driving because I was imagining a conversation in my head and not paying attention to the road. In fact on one occasion, I ‘came to’ about ten minutes down the road and didn’t realise I had missed my turn off and took a second to realise where I was. Now that is dangerous. I realised I had gone through several traffic lights and couldn’t even remember whether I had stopped at them or not. What if I had run a red light? Fortunately, it was a country road in the middle of the day so it was fairly quiet, but at peak hour?
Our imaginations can be used in godly ways. Really though, it is probably better if we don’t spend too much time in our imagination at all. In fact, even reading fiction can be a problem. We can lose ourselves in a novel, even a Christian one, and what we are doing is actually spending time in somebody else’s mind. A creepy thought. We might think that these are just words on a page, but actually they are creating something in our imaginations. Our imaginations are powerful. Words are even more powerful. Both evoke emotions and change the way we think and act. If we assume that we have ownership over both and don’t submit to the Word on these matters, we will not only allow sin to creep in and have power over us, we may even be walking into witchcraft without realising it.
People who have been through severe psychological trauma, whether that is brought on by physical, sexual or psychological abuse, will often ‘space out’, or disassociate at odd times. Psychologists claim that the mind can’t tolerate anything which is too overwhelming, especially if it is the mind of a child. When things become too much to deal with our minds can shut off during those events and also afterwards when reminded of them. If the trauma is especially severe, the mind blanks out all memory of them. One of the things that can happen to trauma survivors is that they can space out via the use of their imaginations as I have just described. While these behaviours can be understood in the light of what we have been through as children and as adults, we can know that Jesus is able to help us in the midst of these episodes. If we truly want to give him our lives and our whole being, body, mind, will and emotions, and that includes our imaginations, then He can both heal, renew, wash with His blood and change the way we think and the way we act. This is both the reality and the hope we have as believers. It is one thing to recognise and understand why our minds and imaginations can be used to shield ourselves during an abusive episode, but we must remain vigilant once we realise what we are doing. We are responsible for our thoughts and we can control them.
I don’t want anybody reading this to think that genuine soul and mind change is only true on paper. It is real. The key though is that only God can give us a revelation of how our imaginations can defile us. Some things, like sexual sin, are obvious. But other things, like using our imaginations to comfort or help us to deal with stress, triggers or other overwhelming things, need to be given to Jesus Christ along with the knowledge that “in the multitude of my anxieties within me , your comforts delight my soul”. Psalm 94:19.
Jesus not only wants to deal with mind sin, he wants to wash our minds clean. We used to be brainwashed in the cult. That is the exposure to manipulation via words to think a certain way dictated to by other men or women. Mind washing is the cleansing through the blood of Jesus and His Word, the healing of the effects of the sins of others and also the sins we continue to commit against ourselves and God. Mind washing is imperative if you have been believing false doctrine for any length of time and especially so if it has changed the way you see God The Father, or Jesus. Trauma can cause us to close off to God and believe He doesn’t care for us. Those strongholds which form because we are shielding ourselves from the abuse of false doctrine can be empowered by demonic forces. It feels like it is a safe place for us but in fact it is a prison. Jesus told us He came to set the prisoners free and to heal the broken hearted (Luke 4:18 and Isaiah 61:1). It truly is the answer to the pain and brokenness we have experienced through the sins of others against us.
Don’t use your imagination as a stronghold of comfort from suffering or as a mighty fortress against the enemy. God alone has that right and place for His people. If we name Jesus as the name above all names, and He is our Saviour, then we need to submit our imaginations to Him and allow Him to cleanse our minds.
Further Reading on this blog: By Hook or By Crook