Have you ever been depressed? Blue? Negative? Cynical and on edge? I think coming out of 2020 we can all relate to one of those scenarios.
I have worked hard for years after depression NOT to be a Debbie Downer. But, if I am to be honest, depression that lasted a few years, reframed my thought patterns. What once was positive became cynical and eventually negative. Because I didn’t want to be a downer or live life under a cloud, I knew I had to do something about my thoughts. I became aware that my thoughts directly informed my feelings and directly affected my moods and actions. In other words, all outcomes started with how I was thinking about things.
And though I see clearly in Scripture that this progression from thoughts to outcomes is really a thing, I hadn’t put enough time into working it through. As a life coach I am well aware that thought work is an important part of helping people move forward. It all starts with the narrative they are believing and the story they are telling themselves about their life and circumstances. As a woman I am well aware how thoughts and feelings can threaten to uproot even the best of things.
“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7
How are you thinking? Because that is who you will be. Thoughts dictate how you will live and the choices you will make.
Romans 12:2 instructs us to be transformed (changed) by the renewing of our mind. Yet, despite such clear cut Biblical wisdom many of us fail to recognize that we have a choice in what we think. We do not have to live with our thinking on autopilot. The narrative that we repeat and the stories we tell ourselves, might not be healthy for us. If we don’t challenge the thoughts we won’t experience much life change.
This isn’t mind over matter talk, it is a biblical view of how our thoughts, focus and minds are important when it comes to living the life God designed for us to live. Abundant life rather than a just getting by life. A life of joy and peace rather than despair, fear and low grade depression.
Very few people want to be unhappy. For some unhappiness and negative thinking has become such a habit that they have no idea how to live any other way. But, let’s be clear, that negative spiraling started somewhere…most likely with a single thought over a problem or event. The thought unchallenged brewed more and more negativity and before long…this way of processing became the story we told ourselves.
One New Habit
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Philippians 4:8 The Message
Pay attention to what this is saying. The fact that Paul was teaching the church this means they could change their thoughts. They had a choice and he was teaching them to choose wisely. What they thought on was entirely up to them. If it wasn’t natural to lean towards the negative, we would not need this teaching and reminder. What Paul was teaching them is that with God’s help we can control our thoughts.
” And the peace of God will rule your hearts and minds.” Philippians 4:9
- Here’s the one thing: Look for good and dwell there.
- Here’s the outcome: You will have peace of mind
- Here’s the reality: Joy comes when we focus on what is beautiful rather than on what is ugly. In people, in our environment, in circumstances…. choose to make a new habit of finding good.
Example: Someone was complaining to me about their sister. I listened while her spiral became increasingly negative. Then when asked what I thought…I told her I was sorry she was in this disagreement but what if, her sister had a good heart and meant well and was being misunderstood? I asked her to tell me some good things about her sister. Before long the good was overshadowing the bad and she began to have a lightening of heart and an openness to believing the best.
What if we decided…Lord, I am going to walk in your word here and learn to choose believing the best. I will not complain about people or things. Instead I will call out the good and beauty. Try it one day at a time for 30 days and new patterns will begin to develop.
I have been practicing and when I do this, my mind is clearer, lighter, more loving. When I do this, I get convicted of my judgements and want to repent. When I do this I have a sense of peace that goes beyond what I could get any other way.
Will you join me sitting in Scripture? Let’s sit with this the next couple of weeks and see what God does.