Many years ago I faced a situation where the outcome was not what I had hoped for. Being young and immature, and also pretty typical, I handled it poorly. My strategy was to feel sorry for myself – and to be honest, it felt kind of good. I was indulging my emotions, and finding an odd pleasure in my pain. But my approach didn’t really help.
I felt depressed, I started losing weight, I wanted to sleep all the time, I lost my ability to enjoy life. Ok, let’s be honest – I was losing my ability to live life. I couldn’t stay focused, I had no motivation. I was not a pretty sight.
So I got help. And in the end it came in the form of a green 3×5 card that I folded in half and put in my pocket. And that card was my ticket to healing. Any time I started to feel bad I pulled out that card and I felt better. It wasn’t the card that made me feel better; it was what was written on that card. I had written down a dozen things that I knew to be true (even though they didn’t necessarily “feel” true), and when I started thinking negative thoughts I would pull out that card and read those twelve statements.
That first day I must have read that card about every five minutes. Self-pity would crop up and I would grab my card and read – and feel better for at least a few minutes. In the first few days of being a card-carrier I about wore out that card. But I was feeling somewhat better, so I kept at it. After 4 or 5 days I was no longer pulling out the card; the list was so much a part of me that I could recite it from memory. I found myself repeating those dozen things over and over again in my mind. I also found that I was no longer depressed. Life was good again! In just one simple week. And amazingly my circumstances never changed; it was my thinking that changed (and, of course, my life).
That’s been almost twenty years ago now, but the lessons I learned are still huge in my life today. First, I can control what I think. I have the power to choose my thoughts. Second, I can only think one thing at a time – so if I am struggling with negative thoughts, I have the choice to replace them with positive thoughts. And third, the way that I think pretty much determines the way that I feel.
I believe that is the point of Philippians 4:8. “Whatever is true, honest, just, pure, etc. – think on those things.” We all have the ability to choose what we will think about. When we think well, we find life to be good. When we think poorly, our outlook on life suffers, too. But we get to pick what we think about!
Sadly I lost that little green 3×5. But it was ok – because I had it in my mind. And I often find myself today repeating some of those things that I wrote down many years ago. Want to know what they are? I’ll give you my list, because maybe it will help you, too.
- God knows better than I do. (I Corinthians 1:25)
- God takes an active role in arranging the events of my life. (Romans 8:31,32)
- Whatever my need is, God can meet it. (Philippians 4:19)
- God will never subject me to more than I can handle. (I Corinthians 10:13)
- Anything I receive from God is better than I deserve. (Lamentations 3:22,23)
- I am to give thanks in every situation. (I Thessalonians 5:18)
- God has never lost control of a situation, mine won’t be the first. (Psalm 146:10)
- When something doesn’t work out, it may be because God has a better plan. (Psalm 31:19)
- Nothing ever happens to me that has not been allowed by God. (Proverbs 21:30)
- God is incapable of doing anything that is not good. (Exodus 34:6,7; Malachi 3:6)
- God’s main goal for me is that I be conformed to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:28,29)
- God loves me more than I will ever understand. (Ephesians 3:19; Romans 8:37-39)
There’s my list. Use it if it helps you. Or better yet, create your own. And then choose to think those thoughts!
So what are you thinking? Remember – the quality of your life will be determined by the quality of your thinking.
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