French Bishop François Fénelon undoubtedly kept running into parishioners who found it hard to let go of the past and see the present as a stepping stone to the future. What occupied them so much was not something in their hearts or souls, but their minds. It had to do with them imagining things they weren’t sure if that could, perhaps, possibly, or conceivably happen. They ended up getting into a conversation with themselves, which only increased their hesitancy and doubt. So, the Bishop had these words for those dealing with this same kind of indecision and uncertainly. 

He said we should completely abstain from imaginary conversations with ourselves, even though some may tend to spark feelings of devotion. It can become a dangerous routine. People unconsciously move on to other things from such conversations, fostering excitement or encouraging a love for something other than God’s Word and Will. Therefore, it is far better to silence them all. That does not mean to should stop them forcibly – it would be like trying to stop a sudden downpour; it is enough to channel them into the ocean of forgotten thoughts.

When we perceive that our imagination begins to occupy our thinking, be satisfied with turning to God in prayer without directly dealing with these fantasies. Drop them immediately, occupy yourself by doing something helpful for others. If they come at a time of meditation, such idle thoughts should be treated as distractions. Dismiss them and return quietly to God as soon as you are conscious of them, but do so without anxiety, fear, or uneasiness.

If such imaginations trouble you when you are engaged in doing what’s right for others, keep working, and it will help you to resist such castle building. First, it would be good to find another person to talk to or set about to do some more engaging task, breaking the thread of such thoughts, which can become a habit.

It would help if you positively resisted this minor interruption. Treat it as a waste of time, like playing Russian Roulette, thereby voluntarily inviting temptation. Never yield to it willingly. Perhaps, owing to your tendencies, your imagination will still aggravate you with fantasies despite your best try. But in any event, do not yield to them. Try quietly to rid yourself of them when you become aware that they are bubbling up within your mind.

Written over 450 years ago

Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

The problem with our imagination is that it does not deal with facts, only with fiction – imaginary thoughts are not proof of anything. As the Apostle Paul put it so succinctly: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.[1]

[1] Philippians 4:8

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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