In times of great uncertainty and distress, even Christians can become anxious and disillusioned. Here’s how you can think on the right things
Some years ago, there was a programme on TV called You Are What You Eat. In it, a nutrition expert analysed a person’s diet in an attempt to help participants lose weight. In a much more profound sense however, each of us are what we think.
Our thoughts are the very fabric of our lives. The Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, summed this up by saying: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” Greek philosopher Epictetus warned that such was the power of thoughts, we ought to be more concerned about removing negative ones from the mind than removing tumours and abscesses from the body!
At a time of great uncertainty, focussing on the promises of God gives believers a peace that passes all understanding
His point of view is reinforced by scripture, which continually calls on believers to protect our minds and to control our thoughts - because they are real, living and powerful things. Proverbs 4:23 emphasises the point: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
The reason why the Bible is so resolute in its message to protect our minds is because we are deeply influenced by that which dominates our thinking. If our minds are filled with fear, doubt and disbelief, our lives will inevitably reflect those characteristics.
This message is particularly relevant today. Over the past couple of years, the Covid-19 pandemic has demoralised the minds of many, including believers, causing much distress. War in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, spiralling energy costs and rising inflation have hardly improved matters.
You reap what you sow
There was once a farmer who had two fields. In one he planted corn and the other, deadly nightshade – a poison. The farmer tended and watered both fields until harvest time. He was then presented with two bountiful crops - one of corn and one of poison. The field did not care what seed was planted; as sure as night follows day, it could only return its kind.
The mind is far more fertile than any field, but it operates according to similar laws. Our lives can only ever return to us what ‘seed thoughts’ we have planted – fear or faith.
That is why Paul encourages believers in Philippians 4:8 to think upon “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, pure, lovely, admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”. In essence, he is saying that God has given us the ability to control what we think about.
Of course, God’s people are just as prone to feelings of discouragement, worthlessness and failure as those who don’t know the Lord. Elijah (1 Kings 19:4) became so low after winning a victory against God’s enemies that he asked God to take his life. Jeremiah was not known as the “weeping prophet” for nothing. And King David, a man after God’s own heart, suffered from periodic depression, as we read throughout the Psalms.
A journey out of darkness
But the Bible also shows how each recovered from their misery. God rejuvenated Elijah with rest and nourishment before reminding the prophet to stay focused on him and to look beyond the problems through eyes of faith.
Jeremiah found his way out of depression by changing his thinking, erupting in praise in Lamentations 3:21-23 by saying: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Scripture calls believers to control our thoughts because they are living and powerful things
In the midst of despair, David transformed his mind by reflecting on the Word of God. This is summarised in the majestic words of Psalm 139 where the psalmist reflects on the glory and unlimited nature of God’s presence.
Elijah, Jeremiah and David changed their thinking by actively and positively meditating on biblical promises. Meditating on scripture is simply calling to mind, thinking over, and dwelling on the purposes and promises of God.
Eyes to heaven
For the Christian, this world is not all there is; the best is yet to come. Meditating on this truth should eclipse all other thoughts and put everything into proper perspective. Today, much of the emphasis is on becoming happier and more fulfilled in this life. But our minds should be fixed on the ultimate goal – eternity.
Disillusionment can set in when difficulty comes. It is the reason scripture calls us to “set our minds on things above” (Colossians 3:2). At a time of great global uncertainty, a fixed and constant focus on the great promises of Almighty God gives believers a peace and assurance that passes all understanding. By thinking on these things, we can echo the towering words of Jeremiah: “Great is your faithfulness.”