My Thoughts have a Life of their Own!
Have you ever noticed how painful emotions tend to hang around? When something happens, we find ourselves running all the different scenarios through our head again and again. I should have done this, if only I had said this or worse, if only I hadn’t said this. And every time we think about it those all too familiar feelings – fear, shame and anxiety are right there dragging you back into the moment.
According to neuroscientist Jill Bolte-Taylor an emotion lasts only 90 seconds in the body and brain. A thought triggers an emotion, we feel that emotion for 90 seconds, but then our next thoughts either move us on, or they trigger the emotion again and again. What keeps us stuck in these painful moments is not our emotions but in fact our thought life.
Now obviously the corollary is also true that our thoughts can equally trigger positive emotions, the kind we all want! But it’s often the painful ones of regret and disappointment that well and truly make us feel stuck. Research on resilience tells us that the only way to get out of these cycles (or rumination) so we can move on is to renew or change our thinking. Wait a second, where have I heard that phrase before… Romans 12v2!
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… “
To renew our thinking is active not passive. It’s a daily invitation to lean in and seek God’s perspective about who He is, who we are, what He is doing and where He wants to partner with us today.
God is offering us an exchange- my limited thinking, constrained by my own bias and imperfection for something far superior – His very thoughts! And in case you didn’t know this yet -He has good, good thoughts towards you!
There is an invitation to make space for God’s thoughts. But first we need to recognise where unhealthy thoughts are fuelling pain in our lives and robbing us of freedom and joy. We actively go after those thoughts and exchange them for God’s thoughts on the subject.
Philippians 4v6-8(Amp) shows us just what that exchange looks like.
‘Do not be anxious or worried about anything’.
Ok so anxiety and worry are not great, we get that! Fortunately we don’t need to live there!
’ but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.’
So this is the ‘how-to’ part. We make the exchange by engaging Him, by coming close in prayer, by thankfulness. Reminding ourselves of His goodness and faithfulness. By simply asking! And then here is the exchange:
7 And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
So we give Him the anxiety and worry; and in return we get supernatural peace and protection of our hearts and minds – that’s an amazing deal!
But God does not leave it there. The very next verse teaches us how to keep our thoughts in a healthy space – these are the boundaries to live by whenever we think about God, about ourselves, about others, about life:
8 So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honourable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God,[a] praising him always.
A thought life wrapped up in these God- defined boundaries becomes a place of safety and peace. Instead of just a ‘thought life’ we have thoughts of abundant life! A spacious place where God can mould us into the thought generators and thought leaders of our generation.
By Claudia McGregor