2020 has hit with a bang. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, racial violence and inequity is in the news daily, it’s a volatile election year and the quarantine has scrambled our lives almost beyond recognition. How do we respond? More importantly, how do we survive?
In a conversation with a dear friend we were talking about the untimely death from ALS of a mutual friend. Not fair. She had lost a son right before being diagnosed. Too much. For a person, for a family, for a community. I have a dear friend just diagnosed with aggressive cancer. Another friend just lost her brother, a wonderful young man with a wife and four children. TOO MUCH! How do we cope? Surviving may be possible but what about thriving?
Years ago I was struck with this thought: what are you looking at? In the stuff of your daily life, where are you focusing your attention? I submit that whatever captures your attention is defining the quality of your life. Someone close to me despises a certain political figure. Despises. What does she do for a few hours a day? She watches the news until her blood boils and her hair falls out (figuratively speaking, of course). It’s one thing to be informed on critical issues, it’s another to fill your head and heart with details that don’t help. What are you giving your attention to over all other things? That ‘thing’ is going to define your perception of life, joy, hope, etc.
Please understand that I am not suggesting we bury our heads in the sand and live ignorant of the world around us. I am suggesting that we not give news writers the power to define us. They are not infallible. There are difficult things we must face and respond to but we don’t have to live there. It doesn’t have to solely define us.
It has become the norm to see drive-by graduations and birthday parties. There are online weddings. Grandparents are seeing their new grandbabies through their living room windows unable to touch or smell those sweet little treasures. Extroverts are developing ticks and introverts are forgetting how to hold a conversation. This is not normal, people. But it is our current reality.
Whatever your current situation, the good, the bad and the ugly of it, decide today what will hold the bulk of your attention, your time and your thoughts. You get to decide what will capture your heart today. Make it something that gives you life and doesn’t drain it from you. Choose hope.
I realize that it is much easier to say “Only focus on goodness” than it is to practice it every day. There is a lot going on and it is not all good. In fact, the bad may outweigh the good in your life today. But we must remember that our thoughts are not beyond our control. Granted, any thought may enter your mind but you get to decide whether it lives there or gets sent packing…back to where it came from (not heaven).
Three tools that help me in this area and perhaps might help you:
First, choose to control your thoughts. Be the boss. When your thoughts are running amuk and dragging you into fear or despair or bitterness, say no. Choose to guide your mind to helpful, uplifting and fruitful thinking.
Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix 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.
Secondly, practice gratitude. Focus on what is good in your life. Are you healthy? Roof over your head? Food in the cupboard? Does somebody love you…even just one person? In the 70’s there was a very popular song by Chaka Khan and Rufus, Tell Me Something Good. That’s what I’m talking about. Tell yourself something good!
Finally, persevere in your practice of controlling your own thoughts. It may not be easy at first but it will soon. Make good choices as to what you let into your mind and then work at lingering and focusing on those things that are helpful, meaningful and hopeful.
If you are a Christ-follower, pray like crazy through this whole process. But prayer alone has not been my journey. I pray like crazy and then work at a new way of thinking and responding.
So, what are you looking at? What most grabs your focus? Is it what you don’t have or is it gratitude for what you do have? With friends and family, are you focusing on their faults and shortcomings or on what makes them loveable? Are your thoughts about God based on his Word or on his perceived lack of action in your life? If you are spending hours of your day reading and watching the news perhaps you could take a break. Look at a tree. Call a friend. Send someone a note of encouragement. Remember, whatever you’re looking at is defining the quality of your life right now.
Check out SomeGoodNews with John Krasinski on YouTube. This should lift your spirits quite a bit!
Colossians 3:15-17 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. 16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 10:5 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.
Romans 8:5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.