Stress and anxiety seem to be becoming increasingly prevalent in our world. Whether it is a symptom of the busyness of life, the speed/power of information or the sheer weight of being contactable 24/7. There seems to be no break from the bombardment of the ‘world’, leaving us little time to clear our minds and be still, to catch our breath. Any gap in our time is easily filled by our access to anyone and everything to entertain us. What we choose to let in and think on is important – do we listen to God’s truth or the lies/distractions we are fed everywhere else?
I know in my own thinking, it is difficult to step back from the moment and take my thoughts captive when dealing with difficult situations/people. It is so easy to react to people and situations based on the lies or misconceptions fed to us from the world or just our own false narratives and baggage. ‘Of course the driver at the lights knew it was green, they were just being inconsiderate and slowing me down’. But when I’m distracted and don’t go straight away on the green light, that’s different???
I know myself, I often get caught up in the false narratives I’ve been thinking of instead of drawing from the truth God’s word has provided. This inevitably leads to conflict or stress that need not be.
Dr Caroline Leaf author of ‘Switch on your Brain’ has written on the biblical process of renewing our minds from the perspective of neurogenesis and brain plasticity. Every morning we awake with new nerve cells in our brain which we can use to renew our minds (Rom 12:2). Our brains are continually being changed by our thinking. What we choose to think about becomes stronger and eventually will become ‘wired’ into our brains. This works for both positive and negative thoughts. God has given us a choice between life and death (Deut. 30:15-19), and part of this, is choosing what we will think about and what we will let go. How freeing is it to know that we can train our thinking to become positive just like we train our muscles to become stronger? We are in charge of our thoughts. We don’t have to be a victim of whatever thoughts come to our minds. We can collate our thinking using God’s truth and choose His wisdom to create a more positive mindset, changing the physical structure of our brains!
Foundational to being able to choose to think about POSITIVES is knowing our value and identity is unshakable IN HIM. The relief that comes from knowing that nothing that this world serves up can take away from our identity/value in Him. Easy to appreciate outside of the stressful situations that life throws up, but being able to step back and draw our responses from that foundation of value in Him is a skill that takes much practice. When we do however, it can make it possible to turn the other cheek, even when there is a personal, deliberate attack on us.
Often our reactions are at their strongest when our sense of value is questioned. We can get quite upset if what we have invested heavily in, like our jobs, our children, social status etc., is threatened. For me it is the accusation of being ‘Lazy’. For others it might be to do with how they communicate or their level of subject knowledge or something physical. Whatever our ‘buttons’ are, when we choose to believe what God says about us and see ourselves as God does, then we can respond out of love instead of from our own baggage.