For several weeks recently, I had been allowing myself to think negative thoughts. The result was that I hadn’t felt happy, had forced myself to do what I needed to do, and had been generally unpleasant. This had been a continual burden on my heart as I prayed each day. One morning I brought up my struggles to Steve while we were talking on our daily walk. He encouraged me. That discussion also began quite a thinking process as I did my cleaning later that morning. The Lord and I have some of our best “discussions” during Friday morning cleaning.
The Lord showed me the root of my problem. I had been complaining in my heart—complaining about my day being full of things I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to grade schoolwork. I didn’t want to write Mom’s Corners or books. I didn’t want to write Christmas letters or figure out what to get people for Christmas. I didn’t want to pick up after people. I didn’t want to be careful of what I ate. There was more, but I think you get the idea.
These were all things I either was doing or was going to have to do soon that I didn’t want to do but were my responsibility. Looking at that list, I see that there is nothing at all awful, bad, or even that difficult about those tasks. As a matter of fact, they are activities that I can enjoy if the circumstances are right—although I am not sure I ever enjoy checking schoolwork. It is likely some of you reading this article would think the jobs I was complaining about are wonderful jobs. For me, though, they had become burdensome to the point of a grumbling, negative overall spirit.
The Lord caused me to realize that my problem is not what I have to do but my attitude toward it. What an ungrateful attitude I had! If I were living in prison for my faith in Christ, wouldn’t I be delighted to have the opportunity to be free once again and check my children’s schoolwork each day? Wouldn’t I be rejoicing each time I sat down with those school papers? I thought about the stories I have read of Christians being separated from their families, put into sparse living conditions in a prison, forced to hard labor for endless hours, and even physically abused. What would they think of the most distasteful task I had set before me? Wouldn’t they love to be in my circumstances?
My focus on the Lord and serving had been lost in the midst of what I want to do and what I like to do. I had come to think only of myself. The more I thought about not enjoying certain tasks, the more tedious they became. It was draining—not the job, but my emotional response to it—causing me to feel tired. My thoughts discouraged me. Eleven more years of checking schoolwork! Those kinds of feelings caused me to procrastinate and let things slide to which I should have attended. This was not the kind of wife, mother, and homeschool teacher I wanted to be.
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). My thoughts were not being brought into the obedience of Christ. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite was happening. Those thoughts were self-centered rather than God-centered and other-centered. On top of that, my selfish direction didn’t make me happy. I kept feeling more unhappy as I dwelt on what I didn’t want to do.
Here is the starting place for change. I have to confess my wrong thoughts, discontentment, grumbling, and unhappiness to the Lord as sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is such a simple step to take. It is very painless except for hurting my pride—which is a good thing to be hurt.
Next comes the truth of Jesus Christ to which my thoughts need to be obedient. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Rejoicing—not grumbling, not complaining, not disliking, but rejoicing. The starting place for moving away from my rut of negativism was to take those thoughts captive. Instead I needed to think truth—rejoicing.
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When I am murmuring about what I don’t want to have to do, I am not giving thanks. This verse tells me clearly that I am no longer in God’s will when I choose to be discontent rather than to give thanks. That is a heavy statement worthy of consideration. Sometimes we allow and excuse our bad attitudes when instead we should see them as sin and deal with them as such.
As I pray each day asking the Lord to strengthen me to keep my mind on His truth and not allow me to complain or focus on self, I know that is the Lord’s will for me. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Steve often encourages me that I can make the choice to be obedient. Then, the Lord is the One Who does the work. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). It all starts with that choice I make.
If you have been struggling with a negative attitude, a complaining spirit, or a self focus, may I encourage you to begin by recognizing that is not God’s will for you. See it as sin and ask forgiveness. Make the choice to be obedient by rejoicing, being thankful, and taking your thoughts captive. Go to the Lord, asking Him to help because His grace is sufficient, and we can do all things through Him.