One of the consequences of having more time on our hands is that we also have more time alone with our thoughts. Sometimes this space to think is more than welcome, but when our thoughts take a negative turn, it can become difficult to dig ourselves out from beneath their weight. The Bible says to take your thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, but how? How do we make our thoughts obey Christ when it feels like we can’t even control what we think about?
Simone Griffin offers us hope that both the Bible and neuroscience confirm that we can indeed harness our thoughts and put them under Christ’s authority.
Lately it feels like the fog of this world is fighting to blind my eyes to beautiful things. Yet my eyes are still managing to see some beautiful things with an unobstructed view.
Is it possible for the two to occur simultaneously?
One minute I am suffocating—enveloped by a heap of rain clouds. The next minute, I find myself coming up for air, floating victoriously on a silver lining. Maybe you’ve been there, too?
BALANCING LIFE’S BLESSINGS AND BURDENS
Perhaps you, like me, are trying to navigate the tension between acknowledging life’s burdens while recognizing the blessings all around us. We dance through our daily rhythms to the beat of both the blessings and the burdens—sometimes working together harmoniously, other times, with dissonance.
For every mundane day added to quarantine, there’s been joy in the safety and consistency of our daily routine.
For every sleepless night, there’s been a morning that arrives with fresh coffee and new mercies.
For every new pile of laundry and dishes (do they ever end?), there’s been the grace of a gentle reminder that God is providing food for our bellies and clothing for our bodies.
For every dirty diaper plopped into the diaper pail, there’s been a redemptive baby kiss plopped onto my cheek.
For every worry over the safety of my family’s future, there’s been another opportunity to love them well in the present.
For every failure or human rejection, there’s been a timely sign from God that I am fully accepted and loved by Him.
SEARCHING FOR THE SILVER LINING
I wish I could say that as a believer, my emotions never cause my faith to fail. I wish I could say that these silver linings are always easy to find and hold onto. But more often than not, I fall victim to my emotions and cry out to the Savior when I can’t seem to save myself from the chaos.
When the suffering in this world groans so loudly that it drowns out the sound of our praise, what do we do?
When we forcefully catapult our requests into Heaven and God appears to be silent for longer than we’d like, where do we turn?
When the good in our lives inevitably becomes intertwined with confusion and change, how do we sort through the weeds to discover the beauty of what is blooming in our midst?
In the counseling world, ‘positive reframing’ is a strategy that we often recommend to people who are extremely stressed and overwhelmed. This common strategy is designed to remove the stress from daily stressors by looking at the same situation in a different way—a way that highlights possibilities over threats and limitations.
In theory, this should be easy to accomplish. Optimistic thinking should be a simple practice, right? Wrong. Negative thoughts actually alter the neurological connections in our brains. It takes intense effort and intentionality to create healthy neurological connections in our brains, instead. But the positive news is it’s possible.
Christian Neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf, shares her research about how both scientific and spiritual factors contribute to our thought life. She teaches about how the nonconscious mind drives the conscious mind and how our thoughts are malleable as they transfer from the nonconscious to conscious.
Her emphasis is often centered on the fact that our ability to think and choose is more powerful than our circumstances.
TAKE YOUR THOUGHTS CAPTIVE AND MAKE THEM OBEDIENT TO CHRIST
Through findings like these, we have been given a major key to understanding silver linings. But prior to this scientific research being released, God already gave us a remedy in His Word. I like to sum this remedy up with these two Scriptural practices: renewing and rejoicing.
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2).
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Renewing and rejoicing are the key to maintaining proper perspective. They are also actions within our circle of control. They enable us to allow God to help us find silver linings when we can’t find them independently. They are mental agents of change that can restructure our thoughts and redefine our days—IF we allow them to.
When the circumstances around us seem to be out of control, will we commit to taking control of our thoughts as Paul instructed?
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Will we embrace the renewal of our minds by indulging in the good news of the Word more than the bad news of the world, choosing social time with loved ones over social media arguments, and prioritizing the preservation of our peace over politics?
Will we fuel rejoicing in our hearts by shifting our focus from our problems to God’s promises, praising God in the middle of our pain, and looking for the rainbows after the rain?
REFOCUS ON THE RAINBOWS
While driving the other day, we caught a glimpse of a rainbow on the highway. Had my husband not pointed it out, I would have missed it. Being preoccupied with reaching our destination was a distraction that captured my attention and hindered me from looking up. Isn’t that true for us all at times? We become so engulfed with knowing how the journey ends that we miss the magic along the way. Sometimes the wonder is vague and hard to discern, but we can’t deny its existence.
May we be less attentive to unproductive distractions and disappointments and train our eyes to look for the rainbows and silver linings. May we accept the rejoicing and renewal offered by our Friend Jesus. When our emotions obstruct our view, may we pursue the lens of God’s truths until we are able to see clearly.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
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