Sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office as a worried child goes back for a procedure, I wonder how this mother can offer advice about redirecting negative thoughts and remain consistent herself. Many of us dwell too long pondering worrisome situations. Fearful and anxious thoughts might severely limit the possibilities for our lives. In the same way, bad feelings about a person or groups of people can cause bitterness to take over, especially if we have been or perceive to have been the victim of hurtful words and/or actions. It becomes far too easy to impugn the motives of an individual or a group and to assume there is nothing good about them. (Very few people are all bad and most behave at least somewhat lovingly to members of their own family.) This is unhealthy and unproductive. We do not want our minds to become consumed with negativity.
As difficult as it may sound, we have some ability to direct our thinking. We each must take an active part in changing our thought patterns. The basis for this redirecting for Christians is that we serve a loving and compassionate God. Our lives probably will not be marked by wealth and health and a lack of problems but our assurance is that God walks with us and undergirds us. Because of God’s love our thoughts can be more peaceful and hopeful.
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) Thinking about God, His attributes and His working throughout history is a great start to an improved mental attitude.
What we see and hear also contribute significantly to things that swirl around in our minds. “Garbage in garbage out” is an old computer slogan that my youth director used to repeat. We should expose ourselves to good reading, listening and viewing material. By reading Scripture and trying to focus on a specific point to carry with us each day we set a foundation for positive thinking. Scripture memorization is another helpful tool to focus our minds. I suggest memorizing a chapter in Scripture if you have never done so. A few appropriate choices might be Psalm 98, Psalm 100 or Psalm 111. In college I memorized Psalm 139 and it amazes me how often parts of that passage still pop into my head after thirty years. Another way to fill our minds well is through uplifting music. The lyrics of songs can often “stick” so it is wonderful to listen to hymns, praise and worship songs.
As the apostle Paul wrote “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)