Strength For Today

A journey of keeping my heart, mind, and body in TODAY

Problem or Solution?

on June 16, 2014

It is so easy to get stuck in the problems of life, isn’t it?

I mean, there are so many to choose from!  We can stay focused on this issue, or that one.  We can remain on the isolated island of self-pity for as long as we choose to.  We can wallow in the pit of hopelessness and despair, focusing our eyes on everything that is not working out, everything that is not coming to fruition in our lives, everything that is wrong.  We can.  It is an option.

For the majority of my life – I stayed stagnant in my problems.  The sticky muck of unmet expectations is a sad place to exist and an easy place to stay.  And unfortunately, it is a very easy place to return to.

For me, staying in the problems of life is no longer an option.  But, I have to admit that moving from problem to solution is not easy.  It is, in fact, the basis of recovery – learning how to transition from “problem-thinking” to “solution-thinking”.  It requires a total make-over of the mind, a complete renovation, a renewal.

How does one completely change the way they perceive life?  It sounds like a daunting task, doesn’t it?  One that feels like a mountain!  I will tell you the most important thing I have discovered.  You can NOT do it alone.  You must have something, someONE greater than you to guide you through the journey!

Over the past 4 years in and around the recovery process, I have learned quite a bit about this change of mindset.  I do not claim to know everything (In fact, I really know only a little, and I hope to keep it that way) and everything I am about to share with you now is something that someone else passed on to me.  If you are anything like me, and sometimes find yourself mentally and emotionally stuck in the muck of your problems, then perhaps some of these practical suggestions may be of service to you! As always, the Bible has a lot to say about this.  One of the most important aspects of changing my mindset, or renewing my mind, has been to get into the Word of God.  As Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Step 1: Awareness 

The first step to changing anything, is to first become aware that change is necessary.  Without awareness, there can be no change.  I have discovered over the years, that nearly everything begins in the same place for me – my thoughts.  So, when I am intentionally aware of my thought-patterns, I can more easily recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy thinking. The Bible has some beautiful things to say about this.  One of things I have learned from scripture is that I can ask God to give me awareness of my thoughts.

In Psalm 139:23, the psalmist writes “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”  God knows every thought we have.  Who better to enlighten us than the Creator Himself?  Ask Him to show you your thoughts, and believe me, He will honor that request.

 

Step 2: Submit 

This step is a crucial step for me.  Submission, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, has two meanings, which have succinct differences:

1: to give (a document, proposal, piece of writing, etc.) to someone so that it can be considered or approved

2: to stop trying to fight or resist something : to agree to do or accept something that you have been resisting or opposing

So, based on these two meanings of submit, I have two choices when it comes to my thoughts.  One option I have is to submit the thought to someone else for consideration/approval. The other option I have is to submit to the thought – agree with it and accept it.

Don’t miss the very succinct and important difference between these two meanings of submit. This step makes all the difference for me.  If I am having a negative thought and I submit to the thought, that is the first step in getting STUCK in my problems.  However, if I take that same thought and submit it to another – for me that means I take it to God – then I have His help in changing my thoughts.  In fact, God’s Word tells us that we ought to take every thought into captivity.  2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we should “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.  The way I have found that works for me is when I become aware of an unhealthy thought cycle that is occurring, I say the following (or a version of it) “God, I give this thought to you.  If it is a thought I am meant to have, please let me keep it.  If not, please take it captive, and do not let me think it.” Oftentimes, the cycle stops there.

Step 3:  Replace

When something goes away, it leaves in its place a void.  A void that the Enemy would be more than happy to fill with his ideas and thoughts.  When I choose to take my thoughts captive and release them to God, I create a space for a new thought to come in.  Thoughts come in and out of our mind at a speed that is not even possible for me to understand.  Before a new thought, an idle thought, a dark or negative thought can come into my mind, I must make a decision to replace the negative with something positive.  How do I do this?  Well, this is one of the benefits of memorizing scripture.  There is not one verse in God’s Word that can harm me.  Not one verse in His Word that takes me further away from Him.  In fact, the opposite is true.  All scripture is inspired by God, and God is eternally good – therefore, all scripture is good.  (Even the verses that convict me and leave me a bit uncomfortable…they are all ultimately good.) God’s Word gives beautiful promises for those who meditate on His Word (Think and connect at a deep level).  Psalm 1: 1-3 says it beautifully: Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”  Proverbs 3:1-2 also has a beautiful promise in response to meditating on the Word: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.”

One of the first verses I committed to memory, which has helped me countless time when I have been stuck in negative thinking is Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.

Another is Proverbs 3:5-6.

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Step 4: Praise

After the Lord removes a negative thought from my mind, and as I am in the process of replacing that thought with His Truth, I have found it to be a very beautiful time to begin praising and worshipping God for His amazing Grace and Love.  Praising Him for taking me into His consideration at such a level that He cares for every detail of my life, all the way to the very thoughts that cross my mind.  Praising Him and Worshipping Him because He IS GOD.

Step 5: Repeat

A hard truth that I have come to accept is this: Satan will never stop attacking my thought life.  He enjoys placing negative thoughts in my head, especially thoughts that are counterintuitive to what I know to be true today.  Satan is very real, and very interested in keeping you and I from all that God has planned for us.  One of the ways that he has done this in the past, is doing this in the present, and will continue to do this is the future, is to attack the core of our being – our thoughts.  The mind is the birthplace of every idea, every action is conceived from a thought.  There are two ways to think:  problem-focused thinking or solution-focused thinking.  It truly is up to us where we want to stay rooted.  Each and every time we recognize our thought-life becoming unhealthy, we must fight back.  Our mind is is ours and we must actively protect it.

Stay focused on the One who can change you, from the inside – out!  Keep your eyes on the One who can transform your thinking, renew your mind, cleanse your heart, and set you on the right path.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

 

Reflect:

1.  Do you have a difficult time changing your focus from “problem” to “solution”?  If so, what practical steps can you take today that you have not tried before, or have not been consistent with?

2.  Write out a negative thought that occurs frequently in your thought-life.  Practice the script of what you can do the next time this thought comes into your mind.  Go a step further and write it out.  Prepare yourself ahead of time and you will be amazed at how much easier it is to change your thinking.

3.  Write down some key “go-to” verses that you can use to battle negative thought-cycles. Write out these verses on notecard and place them in a place you will see them often.

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