The Deceitfulness of Thoughts

My husband and I are reading a Bible plan together: Joy over Stress. This statement caught my eye:

In my research on joy, I discovered that our circumstances are not inherently stressful; it’s our thoughts about a circumstance that make it stressful.

Neal and Carly Samudre

It made me think about the anxiety I feel in certain situations. Situations like making a telephone call. To most people this is not a stressful thing. Yet, for me, I’m panicking, procrastinating, and passing it off to my husband if I can.

The phone call is not the problem. It’s my thoughts about the phone call that’s the problem. I’m sure you can think of your own examples of anxiety producing situations. Here’s some of mine: going to the dentist, asking a friend to go for coffee, attending a new church, or sitting down to write a novel. Guilty. Not one of those are life-threatening. So why do they feel that way?

Being thrown into jail would be a big stressor for most people, but in this verse Paul and Silas are having church, the presence of God freeing them from fear. This means we don’t have to accept the burden of what our brain tells us we should feel.

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!

The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭16:25-29‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As for the jailer, he was so fearful of what he thought happened he was going to commit suicide. His thoughts went straight to the worst possible scenario.

Here’s another – parallel parking. Parallel parking causes me anxiety to the point I will not go where I have to parallel park if there is another option. The fear of being judged as incompetent probably my highest concern. But, what if I gave that care to God? After all, millions of people parallel park everyday. And not all of them do it perfectly. Freedom is what I would find, and that is worth the effort to change.

So how do we deal with these pesky thoughts?

Three verses come to mind to put in your toolbox for handling deceitful thoughts.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

1 Peter‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Isaiah‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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.

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.

Philippians‬ ‭4:6-8‬ ‭NLT‬

Next time I feel anxiety rising up, I’m going to consider if my thoughts are portraying a skewed picture of my present concern. (Score another point for observing things objectively. See my last post.) I imagine things will appear quite different when I think about how someone else would handle the same situation.

Like me, are your deceitful thoughts keeping you from freedom? I pray you will discover all the ways God cares for you.

Grace & Peace,

Sandy

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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