The best of friends are the ones who can look you straight in the eye and kick you directly in the pity party. This was one of those times when all I seemed to be able to do was look as my circumstances and cry. Between being a wife, a mommy, an employee, and in constant pain, I could only see the negatives. Being a wife and mother is a full-time joy in and of itself. I felt like I could hardly manage all of it while living with all-day every day headaches. Poor, pitiful me, right?
My friend (who shall remain nameless, because I want to keep her all to myself) threw me a curve ball of conviction right when I wanted to feel completely hopeless and lost. She told me to search the Scriptures for the word captive. Immediately my mind turns to Colossians 2:8.
In studying this verse, I wanted to take it apart piece by piece. This verse begins by saying, “See to it,” or “Beware” in other versions. Be on guard. Always keep an eye open and watching for that one that wants to take you captive.
Some versions say it this way: Beware lest there shall be some one who maketh you his spoil through his philosophy and empty deceit. The key words to note here are “shall be.” This is a certainty. It’s written in the future indicative tense, meaning this IS going to happen. No one is exempt from the possibility of being taken captive.
So, what does it mean to be taken captive? The word captive here is συλαγωγέω (pronounced sulagógeó). Strong’s concordance defines this word as, “I plunder, lead captive; met: I make victim by fraud . . . to carry off like a predator with its prey; to spoil.” The most prominent example of people taken captive are the Israelites themselves in the Old Testament. Paul knew his audience would definitely understand the idea of captivity. Two major time periods of captivity take place in the Old Testament: Assyrian captivity and Babylonian captivity. Both times, Israel became a nation of slaves, forced to obey their captors in whatever manner they wanted. Women became sex/breeding objects and men were the labor force (that is, if they were allowed to live). The idea of being taken into captivity is that you are a trophy, a spoil of war. You are no longer your own person. You’ve become merely a possession of someone else.
And what’s worse than being taken by an army of soldiers using physical strength? Being taken by fraud. Being tricked into going willingly. Paul isn’t talking about a physical war going on here. He’s talking about a battle for the mind. It’s subtle, sneaky, and the worst type of attack, because you may not even know you’re being attacked. There isn’t always a physical sign of an inward struggle, but it’s there nonetheless.
For the first time, I saw myself as my own worst enemy. I didn’t need the devil roaring like a lion to distract me. I had myself, in the quiet moments, to keep myself in a downward spiral. Voices whispered, “It’s too hard. You’re in too much pain. It will never get better.” In the words of my friend, I was “trapped in a box with the door wide open.” I made that box for myself. I was like Jacob Marley – “I wear the chain I forged in life! I made it link by link and yard by yard! I gartered it on of my own free will and by my own free will, I wore it!” I surrounded myself with negative thoughts and feelings that trapped me. They were my own personal chains that I forged myself.
Now… to get rid of those chains – to find that door that is wide open! The first step is admitting you have a problem – so true! I had to come face-to-face with the fact that I wasn’t perfect. Shocker, right? My circumstances weren’t the result of everyone around me making me a victim. I have to make war with my own mind. I have to battle my mind to keep it on things above, not my pain, or my fears, or my doubts. I must fight, so I don’t become prey to the negativity. I will not be a slave to it!
Step 2: Replace. A woman’s mind is never off. Once we have taken our minds off something, it will immediately turn to another topic of interest. Once we get our minds off negativity, it must be immediately replaced, or it will worm its way back in to our minds. Before we know it, we can land right back in the box. Perhaps God was specifically thinking of us when He had Paul write Philippians 4:8.
Following this command (and yes, it is an imperative statement which makes it a command), we can find freedom from negativity. We can “see to it” that we don’t fall prey to the captor – whether it be the devil himself, or simply our own inner voices. Shut up the voices with thunderous praise!
No, this isn’t easy. No, it doesn’t happen over night. But it is a start. The amazing thing about peeling back the layers of negativity is the HOPE you can find underneath it all.