Thinking positively isn’t simply trying to fool yourself into believing good is coming instead of evil. Rather, it is a strategy for defeating Satan, who tries to get us to think the worst in every situation. He is the enemy of our souls – our minds, wills and emotions. The Bible tells us the devil comes only to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Yet, so often we listen to his lies instead of believing the truth of God’s Word, which says our Father gives us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). James 1:17 even goes so far as to say that “every good and perfect gift” comes from Him.
Therefore, if our heavenly Father gives us such good things, why not focus during our trials on His goodness to us and His love for us instead of the evil in the world that could happen? That does not mean we ignore safety precautions or act foolish, but it does mean we are not burdened with all the things wrong that might possibly happen. Have you ever felt like you had a 500 pound weight on your shoulders and then how relieved you were when the problem was solved and that weight lifted? Yes, hard circumstances come to all of us, but in the midst of them does it really help if we constantly dwell on how bad they are?
In the middle of our storms, we are comforted when we go to our loving Father and ask Him to show us the way through them. Job 23:10 assures us, But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. Have you been through the trials that Job was? He first lost all his children, then the all the cattle (which in that day was all his money), then he got horrible boils all over his body, and his wife turned against him. All these situations would be terrible for any of us to experience. I can’t imagine losing one of my children, much less all of them. Whatever amount of money we have, none of us wants to lose it; we’d be out on the street with nothing to eat. Imagine next one of the serious diseases of our day with no medical treatment or relief from the pain – that’s what Job had. And finally our faithful husband or wife tells us to simply curse God and die. That one has lost everything too.
Despite all that, Job confidently knew that God realized all his problems and would bring him out on the other side. Oh, what faith! Job didn’t have the Old Testament (many scholars believe Job was one of the first Bible books written). He certainly didn’t have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside him like believers in Jesus Christ do today. If he was that convinced about God’s care for him, then why do you and I have such difficulty today believing in the goodness of God? You may say, “Well, I do.” But, do your thoughts and what you say reflect that? When the doctor does a test to see IF we have a disease, do we first of all assume that we do because a test is done? When we are told our company will lay off some workers, do we immediately think we will lose our job?
Sometimes what we think we believe and what we truly do aren’t the same. Just look at the above examples. We may think we believe God will take care of us, but our anxious thoughts at such times betray us. Definitely it isn’t enough to simply lie to ourselves and try to force a smile through our tears. Definitely simply saying everything is fine does not make it true. But, can we learn to trust our loving Father more with our lives and our families so that when disaster does come, we rely on Him to guide us to make the best decisions and come out on the other side a more mature person than we were previously? Can we learn to think and then to speak the positive instead of the negative? We have all heard of self-fulfilling prophecies. For example, if we think today will be a terrible day, it probably will be; something will happen to prove our doubts and fears. Suppose we start thinking more of all God’s blessings to us in the past and expect more blessings in the future as we follow Him. Don’t you think that might be a self-fulfilling prophecy as well?
Proverbs 23:7 declares, As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. In other words, our thoughts determine what we say, and what we say, over time, we will believe. What we believe we will do. Therefore, we will act the way we think. If we can learn to think more positive thoughts, then our acts will gradually follow. Do I mean just any positive thoughts? No, a better word would be godly thoughts, grateful to God thoughts. Counting our blessings instead of our wounds. Yes, we all hurt in one way or another but can we not remember Whose we are? We are God’s dearly-beloved children. Do we think He will totally forget about our terrible situations? Never! Father God knows exactly what our circumstances are. His heart hurts as well as ours at times over what we suffer. Now sometimes we bring that on ourselves, which we all must admit. But at other times we do nothing to deserve what is happening, but we live in a harsh and sometimes cruel world. Sin surrounds us and sins of others sometimes touch our lives in very harmful ways. We don’t understand why the Father who loved us enough to give His only Son for us does not keep such things from happening to us. We have no explanation, and God doesn’t tell us His reasons. But He is still Father God and loves us dearly! We must always hold onto that thought.
So how do we hold on during those times? Philippians 4:4-9 gives us some answers. Remember when the Apostle Paul wrote these words, he was under house arrest, probably in Rome, and did not know what would happen after this time – if he would be freed or killed for his faith. He had soldiers with him all the time and was not able to leave that house for two years but could preach the gospel to anyone near him. He could see friends who visited and wrote several New Testament letters then. It definitely wasn’t the life he preferred, however. Now Paul was one of those who told it like it is; he was genuine. What you saw was what you got. So when he writes these encouraging verses, he wasn’t just talking but was following the same advice himself. Remember long before this, he and Silas sang in prison after being beaten unjustly.
Philippians 4:4-9: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I leave you with these words of Paul’s – except about my practice. Paul made his practice of his words complete and did that before he would ever begin to think of telling anyone to follow his way. I confess, sometimes my walk illustrates my talk but sometimes I fail there. We do know, however, that if we will follow Paul’s advice, then we will be able to walk through whatever trails we face with grateful hearts for God’s goodness even in the midst of struggle.