CONTROLLING YOUR THOUGHTS
Genesis 32:7-8 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, "If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape."
While Jacob was on his way to be reunited with his brother, Esau, he was plagued with doubts. He learned that Esau was wealthy and had a large family. He thought, “What if God has changed his mind? Maybe God has rejected me in favor of my brother.” These were Jacob’s thoughts, but they remained just that – thoughts. Because of human nature and weak faith, people can’t keep from having these kinds of thoughts any more than they can avoid other emotions, such as impatience, anger and lust. You can’t keep thoughts and temptations from coming into your head. Just don’t let these thoughts become fixed in your mind so that they begin to affect your judgment.
You should follow the advice of a hermit who was approached by a young man complaining of having lustful thoughts and other temptations. The old man told him, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head. But only let them fly. Don’t let them nest in your hair.” It’s all right to have these thoughts, but let them remain just that – thoughts. Don’t let them grow to the point where you have to act on these thoughts.
This was the problem that led to despair in the lives of Cain, Saul, Judas, and others. They let their thoughts grow and grow until they were saying, “My punishment is more than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13), or “I have sinned,…for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). When they did this, their temptation was turned into a judgment because they rejected the Word of God, faith, and prayer. [They acted on their wicked and untrue thoughts.] But in spite of the many thoughts and severe temptations that Jacob experienced that night, he didn’t throw his faith away.
Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, By Martin Luther. March 8.