I Think I Am Losing My Mind!
I think I'm losing my mind, but it's actually a good thing. I've learned that most of my joy is connected to what's going on in my brain. I see it in other people, too, when they experience the same thing in life, but completely different reactions to the situation. Some people are "glass-is-half-full” folks. Others are "half-empty."
With this in mind (pun completely intended), here are 4 essential tips on how to manage our joy by managing our thought life.
1. Situations are neutral. It's our interpretation of the situation that drives our joy... ot lack thereof. The battlefield for joy starts and ends in our mind. Proverbs 24:7 says that "As a man thinks, so he is." (By the way, I just noticed this very second that this verse is numbered 24:7. I wonder if God meant that as reminder that we need to manage our thoughts 24/7.) The acrostic A.L.I.V.E. is helpful here: Always Living In View of Eternity. If you believe that life on earth is a blip and life in eternity with God is forever, our mole hills will retain their proper size.
2. The Apostle Paul urged the Christians in Rome to "not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom 12:2) How do we do that? Simple: Find the courage and discipline to challenge our assumptions about God and Jesus and how the universe is ordered. Most people who have an ax to grind with God or Jesus or the church were hurt by the church or some idiot Christian. Don't let humans or "religion" rob you of the joy God wants you to experience. Get your theology figured out based on facts; not assumptions, hearsay, past hurts, or the latest news story about a bone-head move made by someone claiming to be a Christian.
3. This week I was in San Diego doing a workshop for 11 Christian business owners and the topic of sin came up. The original meaning of the word sin comes from the Old English archery term meaning "to miss the mark" ('synn'). While sin includes horrible things like murder, theft, and adultery, most of the sin in the world comes in the form of worry, concern about peoples' opinions of us, impatience and busyness. All of these things cause us to miss the mark of the peace and joy God wants us to experience through his love. Most of these sins are rooted in fear and "Perfect love expels all fear." (1 John 4:8) So what's the mind game here? Read the bible, listen to sermons, and read books related to God's love for you -- no matter what you did in the past or will do in the future, God's love is boundless for anyone with a heart willing to receive it. Read the "Abide" chapter in my book to find out more on this.
Be on the alert for when you are about to think or act in a way that causes you to miss the mark and suffer lack of joy. Then, ask yourself, “What’s the emotion or belief that's driving that?” Then peel another layer off the onion and ask “What's driving that. And then ask the same question two more times deeper. Find the fear. Let's God's limitless love for you push the fear out. That fear -- and the sin it is driving -- may never completely go away. But it will identified, mitigated, and behind you --- not controlling you and your joy.
4. Here's a final thought management tip: The coaches at the Halftime Institute often encourage people to do a media fast. When we constantly put info from Hollywood, Madison Avenue and Wall Street into our brains, we are programmed by the world's messages of greed, sexuality, consumerism, crudeness and superficiality. The apostle Paul told the Christians in Philippi "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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
In closing: I once heard it said that all problems are psychological and all true solutions are spiritual. The ideas above are not psychological tricks. They are the truth of how much God loves us, wants the best for us, and wants to unshackle us from thinking and behaviors that diminish our experience of His love.