Split Mind

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:5-8).

Praying in confidence of an answer is not my strongest point. Usually, it’s an accomplishment just to keep my mind on the prayer, in any attitude, for two minutes. Idle imaginings, concerns of the day’s task list, and worries of all sorts lurk in every crease of my brain, waiting to take over the moment my guard goes down. Double-minded? More like thousand-minded. Thoughts quiet enough to hear God answering me? Only if He were to shout so loud the room rattled.

I admit to being addicted to idle thoughts. Whether they would be better out of my life completely (like the alcoholic’s bottle) or merely relegated to a lesser place (like the bulimic’s craving for edibles), I can’t conceive of living without their comfort in my distractions, my frustrations, my dull days, and my lack of control over the outside world. “Control” is the primary reason people become addicted even to worry and bitterness; it makes you miserable, but keeps you active enough to feel you’re doing something about a problem. A lot easier than either facing up to your inability to “fix things” or putting in the sweat that real “fixing” would take.

And not so different, really, from using chemicals to transport your brain into a world where your problems can’t follow you. By whatever means, Christians who run away from the world rather than to God are trying to serve two masters (Mt. 6:24), which can only lead to trouble.

“Double-mindedness” is, hence, a form of idolatry. The NIV 1984 uses the word “double-minded” three times: in the verses above, and in two places where it is effectively equated with sin. Ps. 119:113 says, “I hate double-minded men, but I love [God’s] law”–implying the impossibility of truly loving God’s Word with a “double” mind. James, having said that God gives little to such people, goes on to exhort, “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8b).

Feel like crying out, “It’s impossible; I just can’t!”? So do I. And nowhere is it said that the change will be simple and instantaneous if you just find the right formula. God will run from a long way off to take a repentant prodigal back (Lk. 15:20b), but a long walk often remains from the place of meeting to the big party.

No matter. Take heed of what James puts even before the exhortation to purify our double-minded hearts: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (4:8a).

And He brings the true work of purification with Him.

Leave a comment


  1. Jerrie

     /  August 16, 2012

    Good words for this day. Thank you.

  2. Being bipolar, with ADHD, means that I can’t tell the difference between double-minded, double-emotioned, double-scared, or just double-stupid. They’re all scary. So I focus on the fact that God is bigger than I can know and His mercy more profound. That gives me hope.


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