For the past four weeks I have been participating in an online bible study through Proverbs 31 Ministries (proverbs31.org). The study was based on Max Lucado’s book titled Anxious for Nothing and Philippians 4:4-9. It has been a wonderful study and book. Which leads me to my thoughts for today that I hope will encourage and inspire you.
Often, as women we have a hard time controlling our thoughts. They are all connected and one thought leads to another, which leads to another and so on. We can spiral downhill so fast with our “what if’s” and “how will I handle that” questions. Our thoughts often turn to “what can I do to stop it”. We are basically asking, “how can I control my life”, so that none of these what if’s happen! This is not how God wants us to live our lives; without peace, hope or security. We all know this, but how do we stop it? How do we stop the thoughts from spiraling out of control so fast we don’t even know how we ended up in a pile of tears on the bedroom floor?
Okay, maybe you don’t end up that way, but I am going to be honest, I often do. My personality is one that tends towards negative thought patterns, which leads me to the “what if’s” of life and “what am I going to do”, and “how do I control this problem?” Basically the problem can control me to the point that I am on the bedroom floor crying my eyes out not knowing how I am going to fix it.
Do you see the problem here? How am I going to fix? Stop right there! I have forgotten something. I am not in this life alone! God is with me and I don’t have to fix it, but there is something I have to do. I have to learn how to let go of my negative thought patterns and make them obedient to Christ. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 God calls us to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” But HOW? This is the question I have always asked myself, God, friends and mentors. How? How do I do this? I would try all sorts of things and none of them worked.
But this week in my study of Max Lucado’s book Anxious for Nothing, he explains that using Philippians 4:8 as a pattern to change our thinking is the perfect way to actually start taking our thoughts captive. This verse says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is TRUE, whatever is NOBLE, whatever is RIGHT (emphasis mine), whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is ADMIRABLE – if anything is EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY – think about such things” Lucado challenges his readers to start putting this into practice by taking whatever storm, challenge or anxious thought that is coming your way and look for the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable within it, instead of the negative, what if’s that our minds normally come up with.
Since I read about this principal I have been trying to put it into practice in my journal and it has helped me to actually start to leave my worries at the feet of Jesus instead of trying to control them myself, by looking for the positive in the situation.
What this looks like for me is each of these positive words True, Noble, Right and so on is noted in my journal with a different blessing written next to each for whatever it is in my life that is causing me to be anxious and have negative thoughts. By practicing this everyday, I think you will see your thought patterns begin to change and take on a new point of view. I pray that you will allow God to take control instead of trying to keep it for yourself and you will start seeing the blessings in the storms. It will be hard at first, but God promises in Romans 8:28 “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He IS using everything in your life for HIS GOOD and HIS PURPOSE, even though you may not be able to see it right now.
As a way of helping you put this into practice I have created two journal pages for you as a free download. One page is for your prayer & thanksgiving and the other is for practicing taking your thoughts captive. Download it, print as many as you need and start putting into practice what God calls us to. (DOWNLOAD HERE)
I pray this has encouraged you! Feel free to leave any comments or thoughts!
I often have to remind myself of the definition of certain words. We hear them so often and use them ourselves, but do we really know what they mean?
Psalms 130:5 tells us “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my HOPE.” As I read that I wondered, “Do I really have a grasp on how to wait for the Lord and put my HOPE in His word? What does it mean to really mean to hope?
The definition of hope is to expect with confidence. Wow! God is asking us to learn to wait for His timing but we are not just to wait and let doubt, fear or negativity wash over us. We are supposed to wait, read His word, learn from his word and expect with confidence that He has a plan. That he will provide and that he will come through for us.
I am not very good at this instead I try to control, change, plan or make decisions that will force something to happen. In doing so I am missing out on what God can teach me in the waiting and hoping. Do you have confidence that the Lord id doing something great in the waiting?
Philippians 1:16 “being CONFIDENT of this, that he who has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
As I spent time with God early one morning, reading a devotional and listening to the pouring rain, in those quiet hours of the morning God started to reveal to me that He has done nothing to deserve our distrust. His word does not say, He might meet our needs or maybe he will bless us. His word clearly states, He will meet our needs and he will bless us. (Phil 4:19, Eph.1:3) With these amazing promises how do we forget to trust him? How do we forget about him so easily in our day-to-day lives and try to do everything on our own? Is it because our lives don’t look like we think they should? Are we God? Do we know what is best for ourselves? Sometime we think we do, but in truth we do not. God promises that he will bless us, He promises that he will meet our needs! God has our best at the center of His sovereign plan. Ask him to remind you today that He will meet your needs and that you have already been blessed, wherever you are, whatever life looks like, He has blessed you. Rest in that and be content that He knows what He is doing!
Phillippians 4:19 "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."
Ephesians 1:3 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."
Recently, my husband and I watched the new movie “Collateral Beauty” and we enjoyed it very much. It is not a theological movie, it is not based on God’s word or God’s promises and it makes no claims to be, but its premise - beauty in pain and sorrow – stirred in me a search for collateral beauty. A collateral beauty based on a faith filled life that believes that God is sovereign and in His sovereignty He has a plan for every thing that happens in our life; big or small, painful or joyful.
I began to pray that if I was to share this idea of collateral beauty with you, that He would give me wisdom and reinforce that it was truly backed up in His promises and in His Word. There are many other ways to state this idea, beauty in the ashes of life, beauty in the pain of this world and joy in the trials He gives us, but it all leads to one place, collateral beauty. I also didn’t want just random Bible verses that supported my musings, but biblical examples of people, who found collateral beauty in the midst of their story or whose story shows us that collateral beauty can be found anywhere and at any time.
As I was driving to pick up my step-son Logan this morning and take him to his bus, I asked God to reveal to me some of these stories and so my mind began to wander through the pages of the Scripture and even now as I think about it, I am beginning to see that there is collateral beauty in almost every story in the Bible. The story of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac, in Genesis chapters 21 – 22 and as you read those words you see the beauty that comes from the trials and waiting that Abraham and Sarah had to endure. Even though they did not always make right decisions, God had promised them a child and he still fulfilled his promise, He gave them a son, Isaac, their collateral beauty in the midst of life.
Then there is the book of Ruth! A book filled with pain and suffering, but ends with beauty, the beauty of God’s plan in the midst of it all. The beauty of following His will when everything looks dark and with out hope! This story shows the collateral beauty of commitment, compassion and love for others that Ruth displayed in her actions towards Naomi, the collateral beauty of Boaz and his honorable acts to redeem Ruth and Naomi and continue the family line.
The one story that displays collateral beauty the best is Jesus Christ on the cross! God gives his only son, He allows him to die on the cross for us, sinners, to save us! We are the beauty from that pain! Our lives devoted to Christ and living out His plan for us is the most fulfilling example of collateral beauty.
I will be honest, I know my struggles are not as deep and painful as some out there, but to me they are struggles non-the-less and I need to remind myself to look for the collateral beauty in all things. I also do not know what God has in store for me down the road or how the lessons I learn in the small things will prepare me for something bigger. So please don’t feel like I am belittling your pain or making small of the things you struggle with. Pain is real. Our struggles are real and they are different for everyone. But there is one common thread in all of these stories, God and his plan and following Him no matter where He leads us. It may take small things like a sunrise on a day that you didn’t want to get out of bed that speaks of collateral beauty or it maybe something life changing. It may take months or years to see collateral beauty in what you are experiencing, but don’t let the pain blind you from what God is trying to teach you. Allow God to show you the beauty through the lens of pain and struggle. Once you see the beauty in what you have experienced you can share it with those who need it most.
Collateral beauty, look for it and you might find it in the most unexpected places, a sunrise, a rainbow, a flower in bloom, a friend who shows you compassion or a phone call or card just to say I am thinking of you. Collateral beauty is around us everyday, if we will allow God to show it to us.