Hold onto peace, one thought at a time
April 19, 2020
In recent weeks, I’ve been paying close attention to my thoughts and moods. I began the exercise in efforts to identify why I seemed to be struggling to find inner peace after surviving a years-long wilderness experience. The answer came quickly: my level of peace and outlook on life were being negatively or positively affected by my thoughts and the kinds of information I was taking in.
The apostle Paul recognized how the quality of our thoughts impacts our lives. He recommended that we think only of things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and excellent as doing this would enable us to live in the peace of God (Phil. 4:8).
So, the question is how can we improve the quality of our thoughts. Here are four practical ways:
- Be more careful with our media intake. Listening to cable news and bickering pundits for hours feeds our anxieties by painting a bleak and often misleading picture of life and the state of the world. Over-indulgence in social media tends to increase discontent and insecurity. We have the power to turn off our devices or to choose more positive and uplifting sources of information.
- Focus on the positive. We are wired to think constantly. The good news is that we can choose our thoughts. For those given to pessimism and negativity, it may take a while to break those habits, but with God’s help and some practice, they can be broken. When negative thoughts enter our minds, we can choose to think about something else. This does not mean we ignore tough realities but rather that we choose to think as overcomers rather than as victims. Instead of thinking, “I will never achieve this,” we can choose, “With God’s help, I can achieve this.”
- Refuse to meditate on disappointments. Meditating on our disappointments, hurts and regrets creates a sense of hopelessness. We become prisoners of our past and we sabotage our future by expecting more of the same. To overcome anxiety, we must choose to meditate instead on God who gives new hope where dreams have been shattered and works all things, even our disappointments, for our good (Rom. 8:28).
- Be grateful. Gratitude opens our hearts and makes it easier for us to recognize, receive and enjoy God’s many gifts. Ingratitude, which often results in murmuring and grumbling, on the other hand, shrinks the spirit by making life seem worse than it is. Gratitude energizes us, but ingratitude saps our strength.
Here’s the challenge: Monitor your thoughts for a week. Are they in line with Paul’s suggestion? Can you spot patterns of negativity that are making you anxious or unhappy? If you do, identify their sources and begin to change them.