"You'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious--the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse"
- Philippians 4:8 MSG
When I was growing up, my paternal grandmother lived with me and my family. She listened to news reports night and day, and she would relate the most disturbing ones to me and my sisters. Granny used the excuse that she wanted to warn us about all of the evil in the world, but all she did was instill us with fear--not the healthy kind, but the irrational and destructive kind. When we tried to tell her that she shouldn't keep listening to negative reports, she would respond with a sarcastic comment such as, "Am I supposed to bury my head in the sand?" I thought about my grandmother's comments some years later when I was getting counseling for depression and anxiety, and my counselor warned me not to listen to daily news reports. I distinctly remember her telling me, "It's not good for you." Over the years, I've discovered how right she was, and how subjecting myself to constant negative reports can fill me with fear and dread. The Bible tells us: "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." (Philippians 4:8 NLT) The fact is that if we are going to keep these commands, then we are going to have to be careful about what we watch and listen to. The Bible issues warning after warning about what we allow into our eyes and ears, and those who ignore these warnings can suffer mentally, emotionally, and physically.
What are some of the things that we can do to avoid the fears that the world's system tries to instill in us? First and foremost, we must keep our eyes on God. Scripture says, "Keep your eyes on Jesus." (Hebrews 12:2 TLB) And, "Fix your thoughts on Jesus." (Hebrews 3:1 NIV) It's all about focus. A good way for us to focus on God, and the things of God, is to spend plenty of time communicating with Him through prayer and simple conversation. The apostle Paul wrote: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7 TLB) If listening to the news regularly fills you with worry, then don't listen to it. You'd be better off "burying your head in the sand" than allowing negative reports to make you fearful and anxious. God has given us the ability to discipline our thoughts through the power of the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6) If we don't use this ability to discipline our minds, and what goes into our minds, we will make ourselves vulnerable to the satanic "strongholds" that these verses speak of. Isaiah 26:3 (TLB) says: "He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord." Every time your mind wanders in a dangerous direction, discipline your thoughts and get them squarely back on God. Then you'll experience His unshakable peace, no matter what's going on around you.
Another thing we must do is to remind ourselves that God is in control, and He is still on His throne, no matter how chaotic things may seem. David said: "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all." (Psalm 103:19 NASB) There were times when David was surrounded by tens of thousands of enemies, and he remained stable and confident in the Lord. How did he do it? He never forgot his God's ability to rule and overrule. He declared: "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the anger of my foes, with Your right hand You save me." (Psalm 138:7 NIV) God knows how to take care of His people in the midst of trouble and turmoil. And as David discovered and declared: "In times of disaster [God's people] will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty." (Psalm 37:19 NIV) You and I have the power to live the abundant life in a world of chaos and uncertainty. Let's keep our eyes on the Master, so we can do exactly that.
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to shun negative reports that have the potential to disturb and unsettle me. Remind me often that no matter how chaotic my world gets, You are still in control. Thank You that as I keep my eyes and thoughts on You, I will experience Your unshakable peace!
- J. M. Farro