I'm an old man who has known a great many problems, most of which never happened.
This quote from Mark Twain never fails to bring a smile to my face. Can anyone relate? A portion of my troubles in my more recent past (adult years) have never even existed but I worried enough about them that they felt real. It took me years to realize that my thought life was the big problem and even today I catch myself occasionally falling back into negative thinking patterns. It stemmed from my childhood when I lived under constant stress and continued into my adult years. I had no clue how to live without fear and anxiety as they had been my constant companions on my journey into adulthood. It's a big problem for those who have been raised in dysfunctional families - you still carry the baggage even after the stressors are gone. Kind of like living with chronic PTSD and always wondering when the next bomb will go off.
It wasn't until my late twenties that I realized that I was carrying a boatload of repressed anger. I had no clue what I was dealing with before then and even when I did realize it, I still had no idea what to do with it. I can tell you one thing though - if a child has enormous amounts of repressed anger and can't express it they can end up with a lot of phobias. Children from dysfunctional households cannot aim their anger at the very people that they depend on the most so they try to find "acceptable" ways of dispersing this internal turmoil a bit so they can function. I "hated" a lot of things when I was young for no good reason. After all, better to hate a thing than a person, right? This wasn't conscious by any means. As an adult I came to the conclusion that most of the things I hated and feared were not harmful to me. An example is milk - I loved milk as a young child but developed a great aversion to it as I got older. By the time I was a teenager I was allergic to it. A fluke you might say but I'm not convinced because the more anger I repressed the worst my milk allergy got. Oddly enough, as I worked through a lot of this anger as an adult the allergy improved to the point where eating and drinking dairy products rarely bother me much anymore. As laughable as it may sound, forgiving cured the allergy. The symbolism of a having a "milk" allergy didn't escape my notice either.
I wanted to put up this post before Kingdom of Light because it seems to lead up to it and also puts my post Kingdom of Darkness into perspective. I know many of you were wounded as children and this is something I can relate to very much. The "kingdom" I was raised in had little resemblance to the Lord's Kingdom. One of the consequences of living this way was "stinking thinking". This has always been the bane of my existence.
In earlier posts I spoke about capturing our thoughts in Christ and renewing our mind with the help of his grace. It's an ongoing battle. The "shrew" would still like to put in her two cents about everything. I still have to gag her to get her to shut up. The shrew likes to comment negatively on life in general, though she has mellowed with age. She was far more fierce in her younger years, I think she got burnt out. Still, she occasionally likes to butt her head into my thoughts.
All humor aside, our thought life has a lot to do with what we think of ourselves and how we think of and treat others. Unhampered, it can run ourselves and others into the muck if we let it. We have the grace to stop our thoughts and change their direction by gently moving our thoughts toward the Lord. For instance, if we find ourselves judging a person (not an action, it is okay to judge an action) our thoughts can carry us far away from truth. No one knows another person's heart but God. When we notice our thoughts bringing us into a direction we don't like, it's helpful to think of Jesus crucified. Takes the wind right out of our sails! Or say your thoughts about yourself are harmful (like cutting yourself down or digging into a painful past all the time), it's helpful to remember how much God loves you. I say do it gently because it needs to be done with love. You have to treat yourself with the same mercy that God treats you with. God is incredibly merciful to us and so, we too, must treat his creation lovingly...which includes ourselves. It takes many years to build up negative thought habits and it can take some time to change this. If you are too harsh with yourself - it is fighting negativity with negativity rather than the greater sword of God's love. Our greatest weapon is praise. Praising God leaves no room for the shrew :) I like to think of this not as positive thinking but rather....Christian thinking.There are times when our minds can greatly hold us back. We are told we are new creations in Christ... but our thoughts disagree. God's word is truth but sometimes things change over a period of time instead of instantly. Living in a world which idolizes instant gratification, we certainly have our work cut out for us. Plus, we can be our own worst enemies. The best advice I could ever give anyone is to capture their thoughts in Christ. Especially those who are troubled. Let me explain what I mean:
Even before my AHA! moment in the Lord's presence I was aware that my thinking was all messed up and that not everyone thought the way I did. My thought life reeked. Yes, "stinking thinking". This doesn't just happen to alcoholics, it happens to many, many people. As a matter of fact, I think most people have at least occasional problems in this area. I rarely drink (though I had my moments when I was younger as you may have read). People tend to connect this type of thinking with addictions only but I believe that most people have this; some more than others. I tried to overcome this through various means when I was younger but nothing stuck. Probably because I was not in a state of grace. After God removed the scales from my soul, I still had to work on my mind. I'll probably have to always do this. God has my hand now, so it is much easier.
After my conversion I REALLY became aware of just how negative my thought life was. Removing this thinking (with God's grace) became a daily thing. At first I literally had to do this on a constant basis. It was like retraining the mind. Out with the old ...in with the new. Pay attention to your thoughts for a while. When you notice negative thoughts creeping in, call on the Lord. For those who were raised in very dysfunctional households, remember this:
You are not what others think you are, no one knows you but God. We become layered with other people's misconceptions of us until we cannot even see ourselves. Throw out everything that others have told you about yourself and ask the Lord to reveal your true self. It may be gradual (or not) but God will show you that only His perception of you is the true one. And you are His child. Counterattack your unloving thoughts about yourself with the knowledge that He loves you. He loves you with an infinite love. Believe in this. It is total truth. Let Him love you; you were created to live in this love.
None are excluded from this love. He never walks away from us - we walk away from Him.
You are free in the name of Christ. Believe this. It sometimes just takes a bit of time for this truth to sink deeply into our hearts and minds.
"Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2
It pleases the Father to give us The Kingdom.
P.S. (This is a mixture of an old post and a new one. I thought they fit well together and would also be a good lead up to my next post.)