January 31, 2012

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Do our thoughts really matter? Do the things we think about really affect our lives? I believe they do. Because where we put our thought energy is where we will direct our lives. Perhaps that is why pessimistic people remain so, and optimistic people are forever looking forward, believing that good can come from any situation. 

Let’s back this thought train up a bit. Think about what occupies your thoughts the most. Do the burdens of life crowd your impressions of the day? Do you have control over your thoughts? Can you push away negative thoughts that threaten to overburden you? 
This isn’t always easy to do.

It seems to me that negative thoughts get caught up in a cycle of repetition. Something we’ve done or said that we later regret plays over and over in our minds, making the situation seem worse than it really is and making us feel worse in the process. 

Can we stop the cycle? Is it possible to look for a positive spin on the problem and force a new thought to overcome the abrasive one? I wonder, could this be as simple as living with gratitude?

Spending time worrying about paying the mortgage or other bills won’t get them paid. Worry only causes distress that can manifest itself into physical symptoms of illness. As I lay down to sleep at night, I could toss and turn worrying about the future. But I don’t. Instead I choose to end my day by giving my thoughts to God. With thoughts of thankfulness for the day and gratitude that I have a warm home and a place to sleep, I drift off into a peaceful slumber. 

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

Is this what it means to hold our thoughts captive? Giving our worries to God? And perhaps not just our worries, but also those thoughts that threaten our peace? In our humanness, our minds may wander to less than ideal thoughts. We need to hold those thoughts captive and present them to God. I’ll bet we’ll stop thinking unclean thoughts in a hurry if we know we have to be accountable for them.

So what will it take to capture our thoughts, to make our minds obey the rules we lay down? Consistency, in not allowing our thoughts to stray where they shouldn't, and realizing when we have lost control. When our thoughts wander and threaten our peace, we will have to seize them, acknowledging them before God, and relinquish their power over us. 

With practice, our thoughts will become more consistent with the lifestyle that the Apostle Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians: "We 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."  2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

As we endeavor to improve our thought processes, we will invariably fall prey to the vicious cycles of negative thinking that threaten our peace of mind. We won't always experience completely forward progress, and that's okay. What is important, I think, is to gain an awareness that we are able to exercise control over own thoughts. And through prayer and communion with the Holy Spirit, we can give our fears and worrisome thoughts to God, freeing our minds to focus on what is really important - the beauty of life, and living each day in the example of Christ. 

Blessings on your journey.

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