Worry, anxiety, envy, anger, frustration, discouragement, self-pity, etc.
It’s everywhere! And it’s hurting our mental health and our relationships.
At the moment it seems worse than ever. The news is depressing and everywhere you look people are frustrated and discouraged.
But the truth is, it’s always been this way. Negativity is just part of life.
Since the enemy tempted Eve and sin entered the Garden, there has been a consistent stream of negative thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors leading to serious problems.
You’re probably familiar with the following quote:
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
~ Author Unknown
The Bible says it this way:
Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.Proverbs 4:23(GNT)
What you and I think and the attitudes we form from those thoughts are the most critical contributors to our conversations, behaviors, and in general how we live. We need help to replace what’s negative in our lives.
So, I decided to turn to Philippians 4, because I know I need help and I thought you might need help, too.
When You Need to Replace What’s Negative with the Truth
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6–7
Don’t worry about anything – Anything! Whew, that’s hard. But Paul’s next words are the best way to eliminate worry…
Instead, pray about everything – Turning anxious and upset thoughts into prayers turns my focus from the problem to the One who is the Problem Solver.
Tell God what you need – He already knows what you and I need, but talking to Him about our negative thoughts reminds us that we can surrender everything to His all-sufficient grace, mercy, and love. He will help us replace what’s negative.
Thank Him for all He has done – And when I thank God for His faithfulness and blessings and remember all that He has brought me through in the past, it helps me trust Him with my uncertain future.
Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand – God’s peace is grounded on faith, hope, and trust in His love. You and I can be confident He will always give us what we need each day (even if it’s not what we want). It’s impossible to understand or explain God’s supernatural peace, but when we are blessed to experience it, we know it is a gift that comes from His grace.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus – Which sounds like the perfect antidote to negativity.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.
Focus your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
And that pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?
There is something else I find noteworthy about this section of Paul’s letter to the people in Philippi.
It starts with…
Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. v. 2
We don’t know what these two women were arguing about, but we do know it was a big enough problem that Paul heard about it 800 miles away in Rome.
Arguing is nothing new. Jealousy, anger, frustration, and fighting are as old as the first brothers, Cain and Abel. But I love that Paul tells them to work it out . . . to settle their disagreement even if they had to agree to disagree. And don’t you love how he tells them to do it…
Be full of joy in the Lord always. I will say again, be full of joy. Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind. The Lord is coming soon. Philippians 4:4–5
He goes on to tell them how to do it.
Replace What’s Negative with the Truth By…
Quit worrying. Pray—tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done. Know His peace—a peace that protects your heart and mind. v. 6–7
Keep your thoughts on things that are:
True – Accurate and trustworthy.
Honorable – Building reputations not tearing down.
Right – Fair and just.
Pure – Clean and uncontaminated.
Lovely – Beautiful and pleasant.
Admirable – Respectable and good.
Excellent and Worthy of Praise – Wonderful and God-pleasing.
Now, I’ll admit in our sin-filled world, it seems impossible to keep our thoughts exclusively positive 24/7.
We tell ourselves we can’t help it. There’s so much flying by. The news, social media, and gossip-filled phone calls. Reports presented as truth later revealed as being less than accurate. Posts complete with photos of luxurious vacations and super-children that make us envious. And “ain’t it awful” whispers that invite us to judge.
Whew! The temptations are continuous…
I took a break in the middle of writing this to eat my lunch and decided to quickly scroll through my Facebook feed. Many posts from friends were encouraging and shared Bible verses and posts from their Faith Blogs but others were “ain’t it awful” news reports and articles intended to sway public opinions one way or another.
And it didn’t take more than a few minutes for me to find myself feeling anxious and discouraged . . . AGAIN!
So, I’m making a list of the things I can do to help me change my focus and replace what’s negative with the truth! You might like to try it too…
- Admit that I’m Overwhelmed by the Negativity – because I won’t change something I don’t acknowledge.
- Stop and Pray – surrender my negative feelings to God and ask for the Spirit’s help.
- Give Thanks – list at least 3 blessings, things for which I’m thankful.
- Trash Negative Thoughts – thoughts are just thoughts, I don’t have to believe all the negative ones or allow them to linger. So, I’m going to imagine myself physically taking the negative ones and tossing them in the trash.
- Avoid Obvious Triggers – I want to take more intentional breaks from social media, the news, and negative people.
- Clean Up My Space – I don’t do well with chaos and sometimes chaos in my environment causes chaos in my head. I don’t like to clean but a neat home always makes me feel better. It might help you, too.
- Do Something Positive – it’s helpful to pause and take a break to do something I love – play with the dog, call a friend, read a book, etc.
- Remember the Big Picture – pause and ask if this will matter a year from now. Five years. 10. And remember that God will always be on the throne now and forever.
- Do What I Can or Let It Go – If I can do something about it, I should . . . but if not, I need to let it go and stop worrying about it.
- Do Something Encouraging and Kind for Someone Else – I used to volunteer at our local Children’s Hospital and hold babies in the NICU. Volunteer to do something you love . . . help a friend, send a card or notes, make a call, etc.
- Laugh – I love to laugh! And I think we all need to laugh a little more at the moment. Remember it’s healthy . . . it’s good therapy and a great ab workout too!
Take one more look at Paul’s initial words to Euodia and Syntyche:
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon!Philippians 4:4–5
That kind of sums it all up doesn’t it.
You and I can replace what’s negative with the truth and be full of joy when we remember all that the Lord has done and continues to do for us. And with God’s help, we can be considerate of others’ thoughts and feelings even when life is less than ideal and we don’t agree with those thoughts and feelings.
Because when we look at life with the truth of an eternal perspective, we will remember that the Lord is returning to take us home to heaven and well, everything else wanes in comparison.
I’ll admit, it’s not easy. Sometimes it can even feel satisfying to reflect on all that’s wrong in the world while we feel sorry for ourselves.
But God’s truth challenges us and reminds us to keep what’s important . . . important. And with His help we can…
Think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.Philippians 4:8 (NCV)
We can think about how very much we are forgiven and loved by the God of the Universe!
Now it’s your turn. What do you do to replace what’s negative with the truth?
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