“Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.”
- Philippians 4:8 TLB
Some years ago, I sought counseling for anxiety and depression. I remember sharing with my counselor how angry and resentful I was toward some of the people in my life. In one of our sessions together, he told me that it was all right for me to have negative thoughts about others, as long as I didn't act on them. This gave me some much needed--although undeserved--reassurance. After many months of counseling, I gained a measure of relief, but I never gained the freedom I so desperately needed. It wasn't until I began studying the Bible years later that I realized why.
The truth is, I could never have peace and joy as long as my mind was filled with negative thoughts about others. I know now that our thoughts are seeds, and when we sow the wrong kind, we can reap a bitter harvest of depression and despair. Jesus talked about the thought-life and He said that "evil thoughts" make us "unclean." (Mark 7:20 NIV) In Revelation, He says, "I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person." (Revelation 2:23 NLT) It should be obvious then that God is aware of our thoughts, and there will be consequences for wrong ones. Perhaps it didn't matter to my counselor what I thought of others, as long as I kept it to myself. But it matters to God. He says, "In your hearts, do not think evil of each other." (Zechariah 7:10 NIV) As long as I was entertaining bitter and critical thoughts about others, I was out of God's will, far from the life of peace and joy that I craved. I was spending too much time focusing on all the people who hurt me, and on all the different ways they hurt me. And it was destroying me mentally, emotionally and physically.
God knows that wrong thinking is highly destructive to our well-being, so the Bible has a lot to say about our thought-life. When the apostle Paul talks about spiritual warfare in Second Corinthians, he instructs us to reject all wrong thinking, and to make all our thoughts "obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV) In Romans 12:2, Paul tells us not to think like the rest of the world, but to be renewed in our minds so we can think like God and do His will. We can re-program our minds by devoting ourselves to God's Word--which is Truth (John 17:17)--so that we won't be easily deceived by Satan, other people, or our own carnal thoughts. And we can pray like David did: "Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires." (Psalm 51:10 TLB) If we will cooperate with God to change the way we think, He will turn our lives around.
The verse above in Philippians 4:8 (TLB) tells us that we need to think about things that are true, good, right, pure and lovely. And we must focus on the good in others. We also need to think of all the things we can praise and thank God for. As we sow seeds of forgiveness, kindness, and thankfulness, we will reap an abundance of peace, joy, and healing. The prophet Isaiah said of the Lord, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You!" (Isaiah 26:3 NLT) Once I began to put my trust in God, and to keep my mind on Him and His promises, I began to enjoy more peace and wholeness than I ever dreamed possible. As I determined to change my thoughts, God changed my life. Trust Him to do the same for you.
Prayer: Lord, give me a new awareness of how my thoughts affect my spirit, soul, mind, and body. Teach me how to discipline my mind so that I won't dwell on things that are harmful to me, or displeasing to You. Help me to renew my mind with Your Word, and to devote myself to prayer, demonstrating my total dependence upon You and Your grace. Thank You that as I sow good thoughts, I will reap a harvest of peace, joy, and well-being!
- J. M. Farro