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Tag: negative thoughts

Imagination Gone Wild

Rendition of Edvard Munch's painting The Scream.
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca the younger.

I’m notorious for jumping to the worst-case scenario. For writing, it’s a great skill. I identify my heroine’s greatest fear and then concoct the worst possible outcome that I can think of that preys upon her anxiety.

This skill is awful when it comes to real life, especially when you have a child getting his driver’s license. There is nothing worse than lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, running through all the possible catastrophes, until you hear the garage door open. It also doesn’t come in handy when flying in an airplane, hearing strange noises at night, or during the onset of a pandemic. My imagination can be my own worst enemy.

In my stories, the heroine learns she must trust God, yet in my own life, how often do I choose to worry first and give it to God afterward? Why do I let my anxiety build until it pours out in complaints or groans? Why do I allow fear a grip when 2 Timothy says, God didn’t give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and sound mind?

I’m still learning how to turn off the bombardment of negative thoughts like one would a faucet, but through prayer, I’m able to filter them to a trickle or a drip. As soon as I realize the flood of worst-case scenarios is assaulting me, I take my thoughts captive and lay them at the feet of Jesus. My simple prayer sounds like this: God, you know my fears. I can’t control this situation, but You are all-powerful and all-knowing. Protect myself and my loved ones in Your loving care because I know you care for us.

dripping faucet
When we pray, God becomes a problem for our problems.

We need to bow our heads, fold our hands, and introduce our fear of the worst-case scenario to the One who wrote the book and who already knows the ending. Why should we suffer from our what-ifs when God tells us to cast all our worries on Him (1 Peter 5:7)? It’s time to turn off our run-amok imaginations and turn on our prayer warrior side. Unsheathe the sword of the spirit and battle in the spiritual realm instead of in our heads.

It’s time to stop talking about our problems and instead start speaking to our problems. Remind them who is ultimately in charge and who wins in the end. Introduce our mangy fears to our fearless God.

Arerial view of doctor's supplies

The Doctors Killed Garfield

“The doctors killed Garfield, I just shot him,” claimed the assassin, Charles Guiteau. Guiteau’s strange words were not entirely wrong. James Abram Garfield, our 20th President, died eleven weeks after being shot.

Aerial view of doctor's supplies

He’d been on his way to a family vacation at the Jersey shore when Guiteau’s bullet pierced his body and lodged in his abdomen near his spine. Doctors rushed to the scene. They poked and prodded the wound with unwashed hands in an attempt to remove the bullet without success.

In tremendous pain, President Garfield was brought back to the White House where the doctors continued to surgically probe the wound, turning a three-inch-deep hole into a 20-inch-long incision. Infection set in turning the wound into a puss-filled, rotting mess. What we now know as germs and bacteria attacked the President’s internal organs, rendering them septic. President Garfield died on September 19th, 1881, technically not from a bullet but the following infection. (Markel, The Dirty Painful Death of President James A. Garfield, PBS.com NewsHour, Sept 2016)

We may not have taken a bullet, but many of us have open gashes festering like President Garfield. Whether something horrific was done to us or whether our actions left a physical, emotional, or mental wound, we wrestle with the negative thoughts and doubts that seep in. Guilt, worry, and stress corrode our well-being and steal our joy.

Ephesians 4:27 says, “Do not give the devil a foothold.”

A foothold isn’t much, but it’s just enough to keep a door from closing. It’s enough to let something unwanted inside. Once it’s in, the septic thoughts infiltrate our hearts and minds like those doctor’s unwashed hands. But we have the power to stop them.

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

We have the power to rein in our thoughts and take them captive. We can flush out guilt, self-doubt, and shame and rid ourselves of their toxic infection. We can let the blood of Jesus cleanse us – wash us clean.

Sheep in the snow

I find it best to shut off those negative thoughts as soon as they begin. I remind myself I am a child of God, that He delights in me, and that Jesus’s blood has washed me white as snow. When you come under attack, if you still question whether you are worthy or capable of being cleansed of all sin, let me remind you of what the Bible says:

Psalm 103:12 – As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Colossians 1:13-14 – For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews 9:14 – How much more, then, will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death.

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

1 John 1:9– If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

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Dandelion meadow

How to Get Rid of Spiritual Weeds

It’s what everyone hates to return home to face—weeds. After being away on Dandelion meadowvacation, weeds had popped up everywhere. When I stay on top of them, the weeding process isn’t too tedious, but when I neglect the garden for as little as a week, they spread and strengthen, taking root deep into the soil. Eventually, the weeds will choke out the good plants, causing them to wither and die.

Even though we had a great vacation, it felt good to get back. While away, I got away from my routine. I wasn’t consistent in my devotionals or prayer time. By the end of the week, I not only was missing God, but I was missing myself. Without a daily reminder of who I serve, there was a slow dwindling of the fruits of the spirit in my life, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. I didn’t like how quickly the weeds of selfishness, impatience, anger, and lack of self-control (because calories don’t count on vacation) popped up in the cracks of my spiritual armor.

Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love made what I thought was a strange suggestion. He said to try to go a week without praying or talking to God. My first reaction was, “How can a pastor be telling people not to pray?” But, then I thought about it. Could I go a week without praying? Sure.

I only made it a few days. I felt restless. I grew impatient with people and was on edge. It didn’t take long for old bad habits to crop back up. I lost a sense of purpose and direction. Loneliness swept over me because I couldn’t turn to God and say, “Look at that gorgeous sunset. No artist on earth can capture color the way your hand does God.” Or, “My heart isn’t right with this person. I need You to remind me of your grace because I want to strangle them right now.” Or, “Please be with my friend who’s hurting right now. Comfort them and help them to absorb some of your strength.”

thistleI felt empty and ugly.

I missed Him.

Terribly.

Not only do our flower beds need tending and weeding, but we also need spiritual tending and weeding. A daily watering of our faith and feeding of our spiritual muscle. If we don’t constantly press into Jesus, seeds of anger, busyness, and unforgiveness will take hold. Those bitter roots will strengthen and dig deep into the cracks of our hearts. 2 Corinthian 10:5 says, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” By subjecting every thought to a God filter, it’s like pulling the weeds when they are still tender little shoots. When those negative thoughts first pop into your head, cut them off at the root. Remind yourself of God’s plans for you and who He says you are.

Fertilize the fruits of the spirit until they crowd out the weeds.

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