A Southern Living article highlighted some recent research revealing that when you complain on a consistent basis, it actually shrinks your hippocampus. Talk about a health hazard!!
For most of us, complaining has become such a part of life that it barely registers. We have developed “easy-complain” neural pathways that are greased and ready in our brains. Negative, murmuring, fault-finding, coming-up-short, not-quite-right, glass-half-full, this-will-end-badly thoughts find no barrier or balance but are drawn into the grooves quickly and easily. We have become pathological complainers.
A Medium post by Mission.org explains this phenomenon perfectly: “The more you complain about things like flakey friends or being asked to push up a project’s deadline, the more neurons in your brain stitch themselves together to easily facilitate this kind of information. Before you know it, complaining becomes so easy for your brain to grasp, you start doing it without even consciously registering the behavior.”
Obedience Brings Brain Health
But even more motivating than the fact that grumbling and complaining shrinks our brains should be God’s instruction to us in Philippians 2:14, ” Do all things without grumbling ….”
God, who created the brain with all its function, also knows how we are to use it. At face value, thankfulness rather than complaining may seem like one of those good ideas God would want us to do for His pleasure. Yet as we look deeper into His ways, His commandments and precepts, we find that they are not burdensome but are specifically designed for our benefit and well-being. There is actually a link between thankfulness and your health, and specifically the size and function of your brain.
“Give thanks in all circumstances,” He admonishes us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. He describes a successful person as “abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7).
The thoughts you allow to have free reign in your brain neural pathways are what you eventually become. Without discipline, you can allow sinful thoughts to program your mind and alter the electro-physical patterns of your brain. This will make positive changes to your thinking much harder to achieve later on. Aggressive weeding of complaining early on is essential to develop brain fitness and power.
Substitute th(i)nkfulness for complaining! Pull up a level or two to God’s perspective. Choose to form neural pathways of looking for things to think thanks about and express that thanks to God, others, and yourself. Let your ears hear your gratitude.
“Get it on your thankful list,” he yelled as he left the rehab. She had just finished explaining to her counselor something that she really worked hard to complete. Part of the program at this drug recovery center was that every day each person had to make a list of five things they were thankful for. It was an assignment. It felt irritating at first. Actually felt impossible.
Trying to write down anything that she was thankful for felt like walking up a steep hill.
But since she would have to report on what she wrote down at the end of the day, she acquiesced. After a few weeks, the hill didn’t seem quite so steep. The practice of writing down what she was thankful for came easier. It had become a habit … a good habit.
Other people coming through the program soon got into the same required habit. She had started recording the required five things just on the paper she had available, but it wasn’t long before she ran out of paper.
The thankful lists made their way into inexpensive journals. The required list of five things at the end of the day often grew to eight, ten, or even twelve things. She had a nice collection of those journals now. Encouraging to behold.
In fact, Sarah was getting close to finishing three years at the rehab and her thankful list had a running tally of 20,034 to date.
As a counselor I have found that the practice of learning to think thanks and expressing that thanks to God and to others has a place in my “Counselor’s Toolbox.”
In whatever counseling situation that I find myself in, gratitude is a necessary part of finding solutions and remedies.
In Ephesians 5:1-4 there is a interesting contrast presented:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there bethanksgiving."
Choosing to think and express thanksgiving is the opposite of the sin that Paul is warning the Ephesian believers about in this passage. It is the correct behavior of a person walking worthy of the Lord, walking in love, pleasing the Lord.
How Long Is Your List?
Knowing that practicing gratitude is so helpful, does it alter your own behavior? Do you have a list of things that you are thankful for? I do not have an updated tally for mine. I have so many journals and papers filled up that I am sure it is in the thousands. I do know I kept track of the first 1000.
I encourage you to invest in a th(i)nkful or gratitude journal if you find yourself in a difficult season in your life. It is a well-documented tool of hope and solution. Our Creator God knows our frame and our challenges … and He ordered us to do it.
Virtually every sin that we commit is a result of a lack of thankfulness
“Today I didn’t ‘waste’ the mundane. It was a temptation to view folding laundry as a nuisance. But today it turned into something with eternal value. The Holy Spirit urged me to pray as I folded Josiah’s shirt: I thought about his heart. I thought about King Josiah of the Bible (his namesake) and prayed, ‘Lord, give Josiah the desire to be a man after your heart, like King Josiah.’ Josiah’s socks: ‘Oh Lord, let Josiah be a man that runs hard after You.’
Sarahlyn’s little tea towels: ‘Lord, thank you for a little girl that wants to spend time with me drinking tea. Thank you for her heart to serve.’ Emily’s shirt: ‘Lord, use her mightily and her heart for writing music to glorify Your name. Use her Lord.’ And on and on I prayed until every piece was folded, matched, and grouped together.
The job became a joy and my thankfulness for each person and God’s goodness to me nearly spilled out of my eyes. It’s incredible how many thoughts we can have in the mundane that have very little value. That can even be in a spirit of complaining or self-pity, or about something that isn’t good and pure. No benefit whatsoever. They can even be working against God’s best for us. But turn that time into a moment to thank Him and pray, then you’ve done kingdom work. Those are thoughts worth dwelling on. That is worth my time. We have a choice what we do with our minds in the ‘mundane.’ (At any time really.)
What if we choose to meditate on what’s good? What if even in those menial tasks that we can easily resent or see as a less desirable way to spend our time, we chose to use it as an investment… into the heart and soul of another, a deposit for eternity? What if we chose to pray? What if we chose to give thanks along the way? What a difference that would make today AND in eternity.”
This was written by my dear friend, Dawn. She has been a great inspiration to me throughout the years. I love how she takes the everyday mundane and makes it into a teaching tool.
Everyday 1 Thessalonians 5:18
When the Lord says to give thanks in all circumstances, he means giving thanks not just for the hard times, but even in the everyday mundane. I begin by being th(i)nkful, disciplining my thoughts to search for the good, the meaningful behind the mundane, asking His Spirit to guide my thoughts as a radar to spot the undetected.
Formulating that thanks into a prayer thanking the Lord for the gems in the mundane is like making an eternal deposit, turning cardboard into emeralds. In addition to that, when you weave into your prayer specific requests for the people connected to that mundaneness, your intercession not only encourages your own heart, but also brings a blessing for people outside yourself.
Have you had a ‘Make-or-Break’ time in your life? It feels like the weight of your actions will have long term effects on your future.
used to describe a decision, event, or period of time that is very important because it can make something succeed or fail completely
Cambridge English Dictionary
The specifics of your ‘Make-or-Break” situation could be very different from the next person’s. Some people battle health challenges, family challenges, financial challenges or ‘fill in the blank’ challenges.
David and I are very interested with the specific challenges of moving into a new culture as much of our work involves those hurdles. Jumping into a new country with so many things that are completely different from what I have been used to is difficult indeed. Perhaps learning a new language, local taboos, event v. clock time, roles and responsibilities, and very different cultural traditions are part of that learning curve. In Colorado there is an organization that specializes in helping to prepare people for moving into another culture. I was fascinated to learn recently of the value that they put on gratitude.
“The president of MTI has been studying missionary resilience, and one of the main make-or-break characteristics isgratitude.”
“So what is easy for you to give thanks for and what is difficult for you to give thanks for?” The question lingered in the air for a moment. It was easy to quickly give thanks for some helpful things that had happened recently. But choosing to give thanks for the frustrations and ‘out-of-my-comfort-zone’ things were harder. He started with the easy stuff.
The sun was actually shining today and brightening things
Although my head still hurt, it was manageable
We were able to find a store in this new country and buy food
God’s Word was truth and helpful in all cultures
Our children are healthy so far
The list was just gaining momentum. Then the heavy thought of difficulties, frustrations and overwhelming challenges flooded his mind. Can I think thanks for that visa office, that septic smell, those empty grocery shelves, those staring eyes and people taking our pics with their phones? Give thanks for that yucky stuff???
When you have started a pattern to be looking for things to think thanks about, and expressing that thanks orally to God and to others, you are in a good rut. According to the president of MTI (Missionary Training International), you have begun to develop a ‘Make-or-Break’ habit that could make a huge, defining difference in your life. It could mean your growing success on the field, or concluding your ministry after less than one term.
Stress exposes what we are really trusting in. To go through a stressful time is not very pleasant, but it is revealing to discover where we go to cope. When we choose to invest in gratitude and deliberately develop and train ourselves towards th(i)nkfulness, we are building a good foundation that will hold when the blustery winds of adversity and struggle assail.
You could express your thanks orally to others or write it down, but in order for those beautiful fruits to be brought forth, you first have to cultivate that gratitude in your mind. It is a battle that takes place in your thinking. Will I choose to pursue and exercise gratitude, especially when I am overwhelmed and frustrated, and discouraged?
“The more we express our gratitude to God for our blessings, the more He will bring to our mind other blessings. The more we are aware of hidden gifts to be grateful for, the happier we become.”
Ezra Taft Benson
Why not start today in developing gratitude? Set a goal of expressing something you are thankful for in the presence of another person and see how it affects them? See how it affects you. 🙂
“Who wants to start?” Nick drew in the attention of his children as they tried to stay the wiggles. They were doing family worship time before bed and it was very difficult to actually sit still and listen. Recently they had incorporated a way to teach the children gratitude by doing a Th(i)nkful Round. “I am thankful forrr …” and the word trailed off while they brainstormed. The responses varied greatly. Sometimes it was profound. Sometimes it was simple. But all the comments pursued thinking thanks.
Putting a specific habit into place takes forethought. It is a mental labor with furrowed brows. The victorious life for the believer is pursuing Christlikeness. Learning to dream the dream that God dreams for you. Finding and walking in the steps He prepared for you. Seeing your life through His eyes. Discovering how He wants to use you for His glory.
Carving and reinforcing brain neural pathways of thinking thanks to God for everything in your life is a defining part of becoming Christlike.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
In Colossians 3 there are three verses in a row – 15, 16, 17 – that exhort us to give thanks. It should be pervasive in our lives, the glue that holds things together. Perhaps the Lord urges our gratitude knowing it is extremely beneficial for us as His created beings. Learning to focus on thanks, and expressing it, makes hope ooze out to flavor every element of our existence.
In fact when you focus on the grace that God has poured out, to love us while we were still in our sin, how can you but think thanks?
“It has been said that in the New Testament doctrine is grace, and ethics is gratitude; and something is wrong with any form of Christianity in which, experimentally and practically, this saying is not being verified.”
J.I. Packer, Knowing God.
Iron Sharpens Iron
One way to strengthen your Christian growth is through the accountability of friends. It is like iron sharpening iron Proverbs 27:17 says. It is beautiful how we can edify one another in developing these traits. Whether it is in the setting of family worship in the home or just over a cup of tea with friends, community around you is a great influencer. So, before you get up and walk away from your time together, do a quick Th(i)nkful Round.
I have a dear friend who asked me to keep her accountable every week about being th(i)nkful. So every Monday we text each other our th(i)nkful list. I believe we have done this over two years now. It is so cool for me as well. I love scrolling back on our texts, seeing one list after another of things for which we thought and wrote down our thanks to God. It takes only a few moments to do this, but the effect of it in our brains and hearts last a lot longer.
So I would love to assign you an action point. 🙂 What are you actively doing to establish a consciousness of thinking thanks? How about letting me hear of strategies that you are putting into practice? Perhaps your ideas will inspire others to grow in this area.
Last night at Grace-Toti we started our prayer time with filling up our thanks basket. It was amazing to see hands pop up all over the place of things for which people were giving thanks to the Lord!
Let’s get the Th(i)nkful Rounds going. May those rounds be frequent and strong… all around the globe.
The loud sound of grinding coffee beans burst forth from the kitchen … followed predictably and delightfully by the aroma of coffee grounds, and then a few minutes later, by the wafting wonderfulness of freshly brewed coffee. I couldn’t see it, but its presence was detected by the nose.
Steaming hot water poured over crushed coffee beans creates a specific aroma. I don’t drink coffee myself, but I sure enjoy the smell of coffee.
Fragrance of Christ
God uses the picture of aroma when describing us walking in victory with Him. All the glory goes to Him. He has conquered us. It is His victory that we get to be part of. He has taken us captive. We are vehicles of the fragrance of Christ.
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
2 Corinthians 2:14-15
John MacArthur describes diffusing the fragrance of His knowledge this way: “The imagery comes from the strong, sweet smell of incense from the censers in the triumph parade, which, along with the fragrance of crushed flowers strewn under horses’ hooves, produced a powerful aroma that filled the city. By analogy, every believer is transformed and called by the Lord to be an influence for His gospel throughout the world.”
Have you pondered what that aroma of Christ smells like?
We are emanating a fragrance. We smell.
When the Lord describes us spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere, I envision a person who is reflecting Jesus. Through our engaging of people, our thoughtful and kind words, our facial expressions, and our body language, we are wafting unmistakable scents that, in God’s estimation, smell better than coffee, jasmine, or fresh pastry … they smell like His Son who paid for our sins on the cross and rose again to be victor over death and the grave.
But there is a crowd of unregenerate believers watching our procession. To some, the aroma emanating from the procession is repulsive and offensive, representing ignorance and delusion; in their thinking, these people are just captured slaves of the victor, brainwashed, hopeless. Others are still watching and sniffing; some may be your children.
But there are others in the crowd whose hearts are strangely enamored with the victor who seems to be a benign conqueror who has actually taken these people captive for their own good. The heads of the slaves are high, their faces noble; some are even smiling. No one is struggling to break loose; they carry no shame or fear. Amazingly, they are slaves who have been set free from their old world. The sight and the smell draw the watchers forward and they feel this strange compulsion to jump into the procession; to join the slaves.
What Fragrance Are You?
Missionary Dawn Perry shared with me recently that she had been studying about this triumphal procession that the Lord leads us in. We are in this parade, not because of ourselves, but because of what Christ has done.
And as we walk through life in this procession, we give off a fragrance that not only reminds our God of His Son, but is affecting the onlooking crowd as well. Verses 15-16 continue: “we are a fragrance … among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” Will the crowd be drawn to us or repelled by us? Every act, every word to a nonbeliever who knows I am a believer either pulls or pushes them. We are being watched. We are being smelled.
Dawn highlighted the Th(i)nkful Tree concept. She recalled that when we choose to embrace and think thanks about the hard things in our lives, we are like the tree drawing up the living water from where our roots are grounded to keep our leaves green. Living leaves smell different from dead leaves, and the blossoms that break forth after a tough winter bring their own wafting scents and feathery joys.
The testimony of a person practicing th(i)nkfulness gives off a strong fragrance of Christ. Oh, may we smell good! To our God chiefly, but also to a sniffing and skeptical world.
Th(i)nkful: (adj) describing people who choose to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in their life and to express that thanks orally or in written form.
“The paper is lying on the kitchen table,” Ian told his dear wife Freda. “Just jot down something that you’re thankful for as you pass by.” And so, they each began to compile a list.
Freda had struggled with cancer for 20 years. Slowly it was winning, and now it was invading the neural pathways in her brain. Ian and Freda were both Afrikaners living in South Africa and loved the Lord. They were walking this difficult season together. As Ian moved through his day, he often found opportunity to stop by the kitchen table and jot something down that he was thankful for. Not so easy for Freda. She tried and a few things made their way to the list, but it was hard.
David and I had the privilege of meeting Ian Murray recently and he shared this story with us. His Freda has been gone for 12 years now, but by God’s grace, he “landed on his feet.” He continues to serve the Lord and to find purpose in God’s sovereign plan for his life. We were amazed at his kind and gentle ways of trusting in our God. He reinforced in our minds the strength that comes from focusing on thinking thanks, even in your darkest times.
Living with Hope
Facing struggles almost always makes us initially doubt God’s love for us. That’s a big and persistent flaw in our thinking – when our circumstances turn dark, we think God’s attitude toward us is also dark. When our wind is contrary, God is angry with us. When I am hit with one setback after another, God is really irritated with me and feels it is payback time. And we believe the inverse as well – that when there is good health and wealth and smooth sailing, God really loves me. This is such a wrong view of God and of the usefulness of the circumstances He has chosen for us.
“We must see our circumstances through God’s love instead of, as we are prone to do, seeing God’s love through our circumstances.”
Jerry Bridges, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts
We need to remember that God is committed to re-forming and con-forming us to the character of His Son. Romans 8:28-29 promises that all the things in our lives – the wonderful, average and horrific – work together for our good. That ‘good’ is our being made like Jesus … Jesus, who was loved by the Father using every superlative, but who went through suffering, loneliness, misunderstanding, hostility, injustice and a slow murder. Do you see the problem of connecting my circumstances with God’s emotions toward me? It robs me of the hope – the steady confidence I have in His love for me and commitment to my good.
God will accomplish His work in us and His mission through us until we finish the days He has numbered for us. He won’t miss one detail. Psalm 139:16 tells us that all of us have an allotted number of days to live. The tally of Freda’s days were determined before there was yet one of them. When we rest in the sovereignty of the Lord, we can look past the challenges that confront us presently. We can look to the Orchestrator of my circumstance for help and hope. He gives grace. A little at a time. We can make it holding tightly to Him because the Orchestrator is also the Sustainer.
What Happens When We Are Thinkful?
There is an interesting phenomena that happens when we choose to think thanks. The brain neural pathways we develop start searching for other similar things to travel those pathways. The mind begins to sluff off the discomforts and irritations we face, and although those hardships may still be very much present, the focus has been moved to find grateful things. Emotions may not applaud at first, but they are fickle and soon trail along.
Another thing that happens is that we become a testimony to others. Just like when David and I sat around Ian’s table and he shared with us about his wife and the journey they had together. David and I were edified by their example. We were strengthened to also follow in that kind of pattern. Struggles we will always have. The Lord Jesus promised us that. It is how we process the struggles and move through them that makes the difference.
It was the discipline of listing thanks in a trying time that was the key for Ian and Freda. Yes, it didn’t change that Freda passed on to glory, but it made a difference in how those preceding days were spent. Thankfulness brought them through the season of faith’s perfection as she swung out into eternity on the promises of God and faith fell away because it was replaced by sight.
What About You?
So if it was your story, how would you pass the time? Now Freda’s faith has been made perfect, but what about that season that we, on earth, are still going through as our faith is being perfected?
She cornered me in the hallway. “Ok, so I agree with you that being anxious should not be part of my identity, but I am so lost. Could you possibly give some basic help – some tools to get me on the right track on dealing with my anxieties?”
Knowing what we should do … and actually doing it … are two very different things. I think, for the most part, we usually know what we should do, but putting feet to that knowledge and becoming a ‘doer of the Word’ is a bit more challenging.
Although you may dislike the word repentance, that is what is necessary to pull up the weeds of anxiety from the roots and to replace them with trust in God.
“Critical to your complete change is your agreement with God that anxious thoughts are sinful! You must see them as a cancerous toxin fully enveloping and choking out all your profitable thoughts and relationships.”
John and Janie Street, The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women
There are two basic root systems that spawn the weeds of anxious thoughts. The first is UNBELIEF; put inversely, the belief that God is not faithful – He is not here, He does not care, He is busy elsewhere, He is not in control, or He is in control and taking my situation the way I do not like. I don’t trust that He is really going to take care of the problem or give me the grace to get through it. I will be hurt needlessly.
The second root is a love of CONTROL. Here in Africa, most people are used to things being delayed or not working or being closed or cancelled. It builds a resignation into your soul – life is beyond my control, so I will not get stressed about these things but will wait and keep trying.
Others puff and flutter and ask for a supervisor and demand explanations because they have places to be. They whirl about in disbelief because they love control and are being denied that control … because the power is out … again. They have a very keen and precise sense of order, and neither God nor man seem to live up to that standard. They feel that they know better.
These are the two roots of anxiety. When we take responsibility for sin and seek God’s forgiveness, there is a clean slate to begin to build correct thought patterns. If we become convinced of God’s faithfulness to us and His meticulous control over our circumstances, we are spraying Round-Up on those weeds.
Here are 10 Bible verses to look up on God’s faithfulness:
I Corinthians 10:13
I John 1:9
2 Thessalonians 3:3
2 Timothy 2:13
I Peter 4:19
Psalm 86:5, 15
I Thessalonians 5:23-24
God is God, and God is Good, and God is Good at being God.
When the Weeds Sprout
To begin with, ask yourself if you really want to get rid of your anxiety? Is there a small chance that you don’t? I know it sounds ridiculous to say that you enjoy your sin, but be brutally honest and answer it. Do you love control? Do you love the attention of others that you get by complaining about your difficulties?
That is not ok. It is not excusable.
So… learn to read yourself when you are beginning to fall into the anxiety trap. Think of an alarm going off.
1, 2, 3 Plan
1st Time: The first time you see the anxiety sprout, look for a new verse on anxiety in the Scripture and write it out on a card.
2nd Time: The second time you sense you see anxiety popping up, sing a chorus of thankful worship to the Lord. If you can’t sing, play it out loudly for you to hear.
3rd Time: The third time you catch yourself watching the weeds, pray about a person that you know who is going through a hard time and send them a text or note.
If you get to a 4th time, start the first one over again. This will break the anxiety habit faster than you think. You will begin to grow in knowledge of Scripture verses on anxiety, in singing worship choruses to the Lord and in compassion for others. Selfish anxiety will have to move out of the way; you are overcoming evil with good. It may take a while, but slowly anxiety has to go.
Some situations cause us serious concern. Paul, who wrote “don’t be anxious about anything” also confessed that he daily felt anxiety for the churches (same Greek word). So what do we do if any objective person would have concern, or if one of those stress-free easy-going people would even be concerned?
King David wrote, “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you” (Ps. 55:22). In I Peter 5:7, Peter exhorts us to cast our anxieties on the Lord because He cares for us. Have you ever thought about the concept that in order for you to cast something, you have to RELEASE it? The word means to hurl, or throw, of if it is very heavy, to roll.
Those who are "casters" - whether fishermen casting a line or athletes throwing a javelin - must train themselves. "Train yourself for godliness" (I Timothy 4:7b).
Learn to fight the anxious tendencies by believing in God's faithful character, yielding to His control, replacing anxious thoughts with righteous activity, throwing your problems on God's lap, and thinking thanks about everything from small to great.
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” ― Corrie Ten Boom
I have red hair. I used to hate it when I was growing up, but I got used to it … and now because my husband loves it, I actually like it. 🙂 I couldn’t really change that I was born a redhead.
I also couldn’t change who my parents were. Emil and Asta were my parents and that was out of my control. Another thing I couldn’t change was that I was born a sinner with different propensities.
I struggle with anxiety.
There it is. It is ugly and not right, but I am tempted in that way.
When the Lord redeemed my soul, some beautiful, hope-filled things happened.
I received a new identity.
I am a child of God – John 1:12
I am an adopted child – Ephesians 1:5
I am accepted – Romans 15:7
I am full in Christ – Colossians 2:9-10
I am no longer a slave to sin – Romans 6:6
I am created in the image of God – Genesis 1:27
I am known before birth – Jeremiah 1:5
I am part of the body of Christ – I Corinthians 12:27
I am part of a chosen people, God’s special possession – I Peter 2:9
I am part of a diverse oneness in Christ – Galatians 3:27-28
I am bought by God – I Corinthians 6:19-20
I am hidden with Christ in God – Colossians 3:1-3
When the covid restrictions first started here in South Africa, President Ramaphosa deployed 73,180 soldiers to help enforce the lockdown. The soldiers would arrest, apprehend, seize, and take people into custody who were defying the covid restrictions laid down by law. It was frightening to see the law enforced, but in another way it was refreshing to see that people couldn’t just do what they wanted without consequences.
When the Lord tells me in Philippians 4:6 to not be anxious, it is not merely a little suggestion for me to consider. He forbids it. He says to arrest it! This is something that hits me between the eyes because of my tendency to worry.
Because I am redeemed, and my sin is something that I am trying to combat and minimize in my life, I certainly will not identify myself by my sin or argue with those who refuse to see me that way.
My identity is not in my anxiety. “Hi, I’m Karin and I’m anxious.” No, I mustn’t identify myself by my sin struggles, and certainly mustn’t say that I can’t help it, that this is just the way God made me. Confessing my faults is one thing, but wrapping my identity around something I am fleeing is quite another.
I must instead identify as a blood-bought and beloved daughter of the King who is no longer a slave to sin. My identity is determined by redemption, not by fallenness. By the future and not the past. “Hi, I’m Karin and I’m a believer in Jesus.” The Lord has promised to slowly and surely conform me to His image in Romans 8:28-29, so why would I keep referencing my old-self image that i am trying to put off?
Jesus wants me to identify as a member of His kingdom, to reflect His values and character, and to identify with a hopeful future with Him. I try to remember this, but wow, sometimes I fail miserably.
I love how hope is described in Romans:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.”
You can be free. You are able through the power of the Holy Spirit to obey the Lord when He says, “Don’t be anxious.” What is super cool is that He tells us how in Philippians 4:6.
Steps from anxiety to hope:
Bring all your concerns to the Lord. Lay them out before Him.
Connect your concerns with thankfulness. Think thanks about the challenges that you face.
If we do those two things, Philippians 4:7 promises that the Lord will give us His supernatural peace to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. That is a pretty nice trade-off. 🙂
Now I know that it is not easy, simple or quick to change life patterns. It is a process. Sometimes a life-long process. The fight is happening in your thoughts. You can choose to ask God to help you think His thoughts. It may take a long time. He patiently walks with us and gives grace.
So yes, I have had a struggle with anxious thoughts, but my identity is not in my struggle. My identity is that I am a daughter of the King. He has purchased me and provided me with hope to be renewed in my mind and to obey and follow Him. (Check out a link on this topic).
“Either you will be getting your identity vertically, from who you are in Christ, or you will be shopping for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life.”
Popped awake. All of a sudden you are aware that you are awake. Not sure what exactly woke you, but you have definitely left sleep and moved into awake. 🙂 Your eyes are still shut, but your thoughts are running. What are you thinking?
Do you try to remember the happenings of yesterday … or what lies ahead for this day? Maybe you check where you are hurting? Perhaps you don’t think about anything. Must … have … coffee … first?
What if the first thoughts you had when you woke was your sacrifice of praise to the Lord? Whoa there! That may be a little too much!
When Your Feet Hit the Floor
There is a lie out there that you can’t help what you think about. It is easily believed. But it is not true. We have great propensities, great leanings, strong habits to continue thinking patterns as we have always done. However, you are not a slave to them.
You can forge new thought patterns. You can be renewed in your mind. Your risen Redeemer who has paid for your sin account, and bought you, has promised to help. As you allow Him to reset your thinking, He can help you choose to THINK TRUTH. You are loved by your Creator. He desires for you to discover, embrace, and do His perfect will for you this day. He has good works that He has prepared for us to walk in today (Ephesians 2:10).
How about harnessing those first few thoughts as you wake to remember things that you are thankful for? It is such a good jolt to get on the right track as you begin your day. So, you sit up, rotate around and put your feet on the floor. BUT, before you stand up, mumble three things for which you are thankful.
I just woke up. I have been given the gift of another day.
My eyes aren’t swollen shut, and the optic nerves in both eyes work.
I was able to fall asleep last night and let my body and mind rest.
God never sleeps and has watched over me as I slept throughout the night.
God will not test me today above what I am able. He is with me.
I have a choice in what I say and do today.
I thank You, Father, for giving me Jesus.
Blessings of a New Morning
Have you ever thought of what a blessing it is that we get to go to bed and then have a new fresh morning? It is like you are given a clean sheet of paper to start anew.
Psalm 5:3 “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.”
Here’s a link to listen to in the morning – Give Me Jesus, by Fernando Ortega.