The last several months have been confusing and stressful. Like most of us, I tried my best to avoid thinking about it. I didn’t walk to talk about the stress, changes or decision that a busy life was creating.
In other words, I took the very enlightened approach of pretending that I was okay —one that’s about as effective as other common responses such as getting angry, pushing people away, blaming myself, or wallowing in the confusion and stress of a busy isolated life.
When life happens, we often relive the events over and over in our heads, rehashing the pain. This process is called rumination or negative self-talk; it’s like a cognitive spinning of the wheels, and it doesn’t move us forward toward healing and growth.
When stress creeps in, good habits often creep out. A good habit is to redirect your thoughts. To get rid of a negative thought pattern you have to have another thought. Every time you begin to ruminate with negative self-talk use these verses on thankfulness to change your focus.
Here are 20 Bible verses on being thankful:
Our Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of it sorrows, but empties today of its strengths – Charles H. Spurgeon
Anxiety will makes your thoughts race. An anxious brain is an active brain. Anxious racing thoughts can make you feel that there’s only space for anxiety and certainly no room for gratitude. Anxiety doesn’t mean that someone is cold, uncaring, or ungrateful. Many times the opposite is true. People living with anxiety do have gratitude in their heart, but it feels like there’s no room for gratitude in racing thoughts. What is amazing though is gratitude will make room for itself in an anxious heart.
Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 MSG
Anxiety empties us causing us to focus on what we don’t have. When all you see is what you don’t have, trying to see what you do have is not easy. At night, I’d try to think of things I was grateful for that day and couldn’t come up with much. But, I was looking for big things. Start with a focus on the little things, don’t get lost comparing. Gratitude fills you with hope and over time looking for the little things you will notice more. You will see more things that you have taken for granted, family, friends and the activities that you enjoy.
Eventually, as walk down the path toward gratitude you will be able to look back and be grateful for what God has brought you through. Gratitude will also give you hope for the future. It will develop hope and remove comparisons. Gratitude awakens you to happiness that can only be found in Christ.
In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder G.K. Chesterton
Whatever your definition of success, we all want more. That desire for more can blind us to what we already have–and should be grateful for. As you begin the month of November try to focus on thankfulness and gratitude. Gratitude changes everything.
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18
A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24 – NKJV
“You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you yourself keep it. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the ring. We are horribly afraid–but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Do you have friends like this? I know to quote Lord of the Rings is kind of nerdy but I love the idea of friendship that sticks closer than a brother.
We want to live safe. We avoid risk, but to live from a place of passion and desire we have to risk. We have to move toward something. It is love and desire that moves us. What we push away from, what we dislike, sometimes even hate, only moves or motivates us for a brief period of time. What we love is like gravity, constantly pulling us. It is our response to this constant pull, that changes us.
There are two approaches to how we live out passion and desire:
- Decide to pursue what you love and become what that pursuit makes of you.
- “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” – Matthew 6:21
- “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” – Psalms 37:4
- Determine what you wish to become, and pursue what will get you there, to what you love.
Both of these have to lead you to something larger than yourself. If your passion and desire is only about you or your comfort than it is to small. You have to find something that requires risk and community. Take some time, think it through, and pursue what you love. Anticipate what it will do to you, as it shapes and fashions you, and plan accordingly. Live the life you want, live the life you plan.
So many feel stuck and powerless because they won’t accept themselves. So many are so gifted and talented, but they won’t express themselves because they fear rejection. Because it attacks the very person that we are. It destroys our self-esteem, and attacks who we are and our purpose in life. This is why it is one of the most common tools the devil will use to destroy a person’s life.
“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen
Rejection hurts. Here are some effects that rejection has on our emotions, thinking, and behavior.
Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings…It’s something we make inside ourselves…. with God. The problem is that I am surprised at where my thoughts go to. Not toward happiness. I worry and stress with my thoughts and argue with people in my head. Here are some ways to help you pay attention to happiness:
- Learn to create positive affirmations – Talk to yourself in a positive nurturing way. Don’t demean or belittle yourself. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
- Count your joys and blessings – Focus on what you do have rather then what you don’t have. Appreciate and enjoy what you already have. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” – Isaiah 26:3
- Allow yourself to be playful and childlike – Learn to let go and play. “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4
- Focus on changing yourself instead of changing the world around you – Wake up with a resolve to stay happy during the day. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” – Romans 12:2
- Your body is God’s temple, honor it – Give yourself proper rest, nutrition and pleasure. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
The best remedy I know for worry, anxiety and stress is the gift of serving others. The best cure for the tired soul is the risk of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great paradoxes of life is this: When you serve others you almost always benefit more than those you served.
The typical response to physical or emotional pain is to self protect. When you are hurt physically self protection is wisdom. Emotional pain is different. When you have been hurt emotionally with shame and rejection you have to be willing to risk to find healing. Risk by trying to love again not self protect. Reaching for and responding with love toward your spouse, children and friends will bring health and healing. Physical or emotional withdrawal can work in the short run but can be toxic in the long run. Learn to risk by loving those around you again. You have a choice.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable – C.S. Lewis
Every day you should begin with a vision for where you want to go. The goal is to be proactive not reactive. This is a common business idea – Begin with the end in mind – Stephen Covey. Does this idea work in relationships? Here are five small things you can do that will proactively bless your spouse and family: