I heard a quote the other day. It’s actually a question, and goes like this: “If I had a bad day, was it really all bad? Or did I let one difficult moment dictate how I felt the rest of the day?”
This reminded me that God is far more interested in changing my mindset than changing my circumstances.
Yes, I want God to take away suffering, pain, sorrow, and sickness. But what if God wants to work on me first? How, then, am I going to endure all the suffering, pain, sorrow, and sickness? With a managed mind or an unmanaged mind?
A managed mind grows in peace, tranquility, confidence, strength, and trust in God.
An unmanaged mind breeds tension, conflict, stress, and fear. It robs my daily joy.
Here are a few ways that I came up with to help foster a managed mind (at all times, but especially in times of trial).
Will It Matter in Five Years?
Through this pandemic, my dad and I have adopted a question that we ask each other to keep us in check: “Will it matter five years from now?” Is it going to matter in five years that…someone cut me off today? I didn’t enjoy a work meeting? I lost track of time and burned something on the stove?
What is going to matter in five years (and every year) is how I love God and love others and maintain my hope of salvation.
When negative emotions are snatching at the steering wheel of my mind, it’s hard to have that five-year perspective. What helps me is to go back to the old standby: “What would Jesus do in this situation?”
Would Jesus act irritated with this waitress? Would Jesus yell at this kid? Would Jesus stay up all night worrying about this issue? I strive to dismiss feelings that don’t make me more like Jesus.
Scrape Off Grumpy Barnacles
I’ve heard that if a boat isn’t cleaned properly it collects barnacles, which create resistance, making it more difficult to sail, regardless of how new or nice the boat is. Grumpiness is like a barnacle that attaches itself and slows my spiritual progress. I want to stop feeding these clingy freeloaders with grumpy emotions.
For example, have you ever caught yourself nitpicking at how someone is serving God differently than you? They should tithe more, give shorter testimonies, be quieter in church, serve God “the right way.” It’s easy to become a grumpy Christian.
We can spiral into a grumpfest when we dwell on depressing or negative news, make poor entertainment choices, or hang out with people who gossip or encourage more grumpiness.
We can dry out our grumpy barnacles with fasting and prayer and ask God for the strength to completely remove the grump-triggers from our lives. Romans 6 explains how to combat this by becoming dead to sin and alive to God.
Don’t Entertain Negativity — Challenge It
I can recall vivid moments in our downstairs laundry room, venting to my mom about whatever new emotional distress my high-school life handed me that day. Mom would quietly fold clothes, listening to me, letting me vent. At some point, while still folding clothes, she would calmly remind me, “Erin, there are only two forces in this world: good and evil. One is from God. One is from the opposition. Which one are you going to entertain?”
Why would I roll out a red carpet for negativity? Why let it enter at all, much less entertain it with a cup of tea and a scone?
Here are some questions to help challenge negativity, to stop spiraling thoughts and pull me back on track:
- Am I overestimating or catastrophizing?
- Is this a fact, or does it sound like a false belief?
- What’s the worst that can happen?
- Am I 100 percent sure it will happen?
- Is this a hassle or a horror?
- Is this bothering anyone else except me at this moment?
- What would I tell a friend who had this thought?
Just because a negative thought comes a-callin’ doesn’t mean I have to entertain it.
Thieves Don’t Rob Empty Houses
Never forget: Thieves don’t rob empty houses. The opposition is attacking us — or making us think we’re under attack — because we’re valuable to God. We are children of the King. We don’t belong to those who shrink back and get destroyed. We belong to those who have faith and are saved (Hebrews 10:36-39).
I never really related to the scripture in James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy when you fall into divers temptation.” How am I supposed to be joyful when I’m facing a trial? But now, I appreciate that I have the opportunity to choose to maintain my joy regardless of what I face and not let the opposition choose for me.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.