“Be careful what you think,
because your thoughts run your life.”
–Proverbs 4:23, NCV
That would explain why worrisome thoughts can turn into paralyzing fear, pessimism into debilitating discouragement, and sadness into utter hopelessness.
No one wants to dwell in such misery.
But if a person is facing difficult circumstances, and she allows her thoughts to run amok on auto-pilot, she’s likely to slide downward into hyper negativity. Climbing out is difficult.
“Snap out of it!” someone will say. Not very helpful.
“Look for the silver lining,” advises another. Easier said than done when tragedy strikes–and lingers.
“Spend some time in reflection.” That’s what one web site recommends, offering sixteen questions for a person to consider. Most of us don’t have time for that much introspection, nor the inclination, when we’re hurting.
So, how can we climb out of a miserable pit of despair?
By replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, especially scripture.
You see, our brains cannot focus on two things at once. Prove it to yourself by counting to ten and reciting John 3:16 at the same time. You’ll find you’re either counting or reciting, not both simultaneously.
We can apply the same strategy to negative thinking. At the first moment we realize our thoughts are headed in the wrong direction, we can confess it and ask God to help us renew our minds:
“Lord, I don’t want to think about this anymore. I know it’s counter productive and does absolutely no good. Help me to refocus on what is noble and right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).”
Then we start singing a favorite praise song, listing all the reasons we can trust God in this situation, or reciting an uplifting scripture.
For a start, the bulleted quotes below highlight some common threads of negative thinking. Following each is a positive scripture as rebuttal:
- “There is no way this situation is going to work out.”
Oh? “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, italics added).
- “I can’t stand another day of this.”
Oh, yes, I can stand. I can put on the full armor of God, so that in this day of trouble, I may be able to stand my ground” (Ephesians 6:13).
Restoration will come. “Though you, [God], have made me see troubles…you will restore my life again…you will again bring me up” (Psalm 71:20).
- “I am never going to succeed.”
Not true. God says [He] will accomplish all [his] purposes (Isaiah 46:10b, italics added). What greater success could there be than to accomplish the purpose of Almighty God?
- “I have no idea how to proceed. Maybe I should just quit. This is just too hard.”
I can pray as the author of Hebrews did: “May the God of peace…equip me with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in me what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
- “Sometimes I can’t seem to do anything right. How can God use me?”
I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).
If the bulleted comments in bold print are our focus, our lives will surely head in a downward direction toward discouragement and hopelessness.
If, on the other hand, we focus on the promises and positive affirmations of scripture, we head in an upward direction toward wholeness, productivity, and joy.
“He enables [us] to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19)–above the doubts and uncertainties.
Focus determines direction.
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What scripture promise or affirmation lifts you up when circumstances try to pull you down? Add your favorites in the Comments below!
(Photo credits: www.facebook.com/wonwithoutaword; http://www.zazzle.com.)