When I picked up the phone, it was my dad. “I am inviting your children to drive to Post with me to see the chapel that burned on Sunday morning. Your mom says there is all kinds of activity there. I am sure your children would be interested in watching what they are doing.”
Having no doubt that my crew would enthusiastically say “yes,” we made arrangements for the children to walk over to his house since we live next door. Delighted hoops and hollers filled our halls as five children from age twelve down to five heard the plans.
While my children enjoyed an unexpected field trip, I really believe the Lord put together that outing for another reason. I had been struggling emotionally all day. Although I was not falling deeper into the negative spiral, neither did I see victory on the horizon. Suddenly I had a silent house with no responsibilities that had to be fulfilled at that minute.
I headed straight to my rocking chair nook with my Bible and a tissue. I knew I needed time with the Lord. My negative thoughts were so overwhelming that I pulled out a small notebook and began to write down all the areas of my life in which I seemed to be failing. I knew that at least if they were on paper I could realistically evaluate them with the Lord. I quickly filled up a page and a half!
I had decided I would work my way down the list, confessing each area as sin and then reading Scripture that applied to it. As I glanced over the list, however, I saw that my emotions had totally distorted my thinking. While each portion of the list had things I was asking the Lord to grow me in or eliminate from my life, none represented truth. They were all globalized with words like “never,” “nothing,” “won’t,” and “can’t.”
While confessing sin, asking forgiveness, and seeking the Lord for His grace to avoid that sin in the future is part of my normal procedure, that wasn’t where the Lord took me that afternoon. He quickly put in my mind another direction for attacking this problem. Thanksgiving!
Two verses immediately came to mind before I even opened my Bible. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I was most certainly not giving thanks for everything—or really anything at all. Nor did my day represent doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God. It had been a day filled with negative responses to the circumstances around me. Rather than giving thanks and praising the Lord in the midst of feelings and situations, I had turned my focus onto myself and my failures.
Through the early part of the day, I didn’t confess each wrong reaction and wrong thought as sin. Those would have been the right steps. Instead, as the day wore on, I allowed my thoughts to follow a path of self pity. I knew I was not being the wife and mother the Lord would have me be that day.
However, I didn’t want to choose to apply even a small amount of self-discipline to change the pattern and direction. “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). I know some might become tired of how often I quote this verse in a Mom’s Corner. It is key, though, in our overcoming the difficulties we struggle with—no matter what they may be!
What I needed to do was to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” This takes place in my mind. The Lord has given us His Word about what we can then expect. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
It was true that, during the day I am describing, I was allowing unresolved sin to continue in my life that needed to be dealt with biblically. It was not true that I allowed such unresolved sin every day. It was not true that I never responded sweetly to anything. It was not true that I always criticized and never praised. It was not true that I always felt distant from the Lord.
I began to go through each item on my list to find something to be thankful for rather than unhappy about. My negative emotions were almost immediately overcome with that grateful spirit inherent in praise and thanksgiving. Here is a sample of my change of thoughts. “Lord, I feel like I am doing this all in my own strength,” was replaced with, “Lord, I am so grateful for my salvation and Your never ending work in my life. You have brought me so far and please continue the good work that You began. When I feel like I am doing this in my own strength, I have lost sight that every single good thing that I do is from You. When those feelings overtake me, it is because I have chosen not to be close to You, not to seek You in prayer before thinking or acting, and to allow self pity to overtake me.”
“I never respond to anything sweetly,” was replaced by, “Thank You, Lord, for each of these children. They are truly a blessing from You. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to love them and teach them about You.”
When my children returned from their outing, they must have thought they had a new mommy. Beginning with a simple choice to seek the Lord for help, the negative thinking was dispelled. Please believe me when I say that no matter what is happening around me, it simply isn’t worth a bad attitude toward it. My sinful reactions gain nothing while following the Lord’s direction profits everything!
Dear Sisters, I expect you know all too well what it is like to have days when many, if not all, of your thoughts are negative. You may not have a God-directed appointment to quietly take your heart to the Lord as I did, but remember Susannah Wesley, who would throw her apron over her head to pray. In the midst of chaos, strife, and busyness, we can still kneel where we are, bow our heads, and turn our thoughts to thanksgiving. May I encourage you to take your thoughts captive, bringing them from negativism to thanksgiving.