We live in a time that is filled with flippant pressure to consume, earn more, achieve more, gain more, grow more, etc. This concept, of course, is without restraint unless it comes into contact with the Word of God, which is when reluctance, the "less is more" approach, and limitation come into play. As a parent, it is my duty to teach my children the way they should go. God makes a clear command in Deuteronomy 6: 6-9, "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Everything in life presents a learning opportunity, and a chance to teach biblical wisdom and lessons.
Through this time of great difficulty, we have a wonderful opportunity to dig into a lesson that I often impart to my children throughout tough days: bear an attitude of gratitude. The enemy of our souls wants us to be distracted and disgruntled in hopelessness, covetousness, self-pity, pride, etc. and the best way to win that battle is through turning the tides of the mind and replacing lies with Truth, capital T! The Bible tells us, "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 10:3).
We are not to be people of fear and trepidation, but of joy and enthusiasm! Because of our hope in the Lord, we can look to Him for guidance and answers to prayer, knowing that He is Sovereign and good beyond understanding. It is only when we step outside of these basic Christian beliefs that we enter into a mentality that brings with it destruction. Focusing on things that are not going our way, repeatedly playing videos of the mind of negative events, and wishing or yearning for things completely outside of our control are just some of the ways to obtain a negative attitude. Just like all sins, we naturally and quite easily slide into these behaviors like they are a pair of loved and well-worn socks.
But, to step out of our natural sin behaviors and into God's Ways breaks us free from this self-destructive cycle. No matter what our earthly situations bring to us, they are not so devastating that we cannot stand up under them. The bible repeatedly tells us to be thankful, show joy, have thanksgiving, and wait on the Lord. He is our Rock and our Redeemer in times of need. So, we must take our thoughts captive, which describes a very intentional and purposeful event, not something that just happens passively. When walking my kids through this exercise, I always ask them to voice their concerns and if they need to talk and then I ask them some things that they just really like. This turns their mind to the things in their life for which they are thankful: my sister, playing with dolls, running, etc. Remembering all the good things that God has provided in this life helps to correct any negative perspectives that want to invade and take over our minds. This is taking thoughts captive.
Practicing this discipline is a big step in keeping our minds on giving praise and glory to God, even in our most difficult times. We must never forget how much God loves us, or let our circumstances dictate how we are led. We are not to be led by our emotions, but to bring our concerns and suffering to the Lord's feet in worshipful prayer. Philippians 4:6 says this: "Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, take your requests to God." The next passage, though, is KEY! "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ," Philippians 4:7. When I say worshipful I mean having a humble and respectful heart towards a Most High God, always keeping in proper perspective on who He is and who we are. If this heart attitude toward God remains in proper order, the response and results of such prayer will be this promise. God is faithful and does not leave us in the miry pit, but helps us to walk through it to the mountaintop, where we are able to see His bigger view on things. Focusing on how great God is, correcting negative thoughts through intentional action, and praising the Lord regardless of circumstances provides the greatest gift of joy in the times of trouble. Amen for that!