Focused or Fretful

headcaseIf you could look inside your head, would you find the thought center of your mind dotted with the warts of worry and the ulcers of anxiousness?

In anxious moments, I’ve found comfort in the potent promise of Isaiah 26:3: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.

Here’s a simple truth: The mind that’s not staying on God, is straying from Him, and it’s easily disoriented by the worries of life.  Undisciplined thoughts leave room for unfounded arguments that foster fear; however, Christ-centered thinking augments faith and smothers the fires of fretfulness.

To “stay” your mind on God, I suggest that you begin by:

  • Focusing on God: I sought the Lord, and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears. ~Psalm 34:4
  • Claiming the promise of God’s presence: Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do. ~Joshua 1:9
  • Believing God loves you: The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; and, He will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah 3:17
  • Getting a grip on life: For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” ~Isaiah 41:13

Think about it: When God is holding your right hand, you never have to worry about holding the wrong one.

Phil 4

Depression: An Emotional Hole

A-5-Minute-by-Craig-SunterLife would be boringly bland if it were not for our emotions.  I’m thankful that I can scan the horizon of humanity and see faces of innocence framed in smiles that run from ear to ear.  What would a party be if a child never had the gift of joy when he unwrapped a toy?

Emotions are God’s gift to His creation, and I believe He intended for you to have a life filled with gigglicious moments—those times that are delicious with laughter.

When I think of emotions, I wonder about Adam and Eve.  They never had a second of sadness, and they were never disappointed; not, until they sinned and disobeyed God.  Their lives of delight were immediately overcome by fright and despair as they tried to hide from God.

The negative and debilitating emotions that Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden are the same feelings that still afflict thousands of people today.  Some research by the National Institute of Mental Health confirms this:

  • 60% of our fears are over things that will never happen.
  • 30% of our fears are focused on things that happened in the past
  • 90 % of our fears are somewhat insignificant
  • 88% of our fears are health-related (hypochondriacs)

The Anxiety and Depression Society of America has stated that anxiety disorders are the most common forms of mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). Uncontrolled worry can have a debilitating effect on a person’s appetite, relationships, job performance, and sleep–all of which can be precursors to depression.

While your situation may be different from those of another person, the circumstances of life should not circumvent your emotional health.  Circumstances are external events that trigger an internal and emotional response.  Even though you cannot control all of the externals, you can learn to manage the internals.

The simple truth is that you either control your thoughts or they control you. A key means of controlling your thoughts is to be introspective with a proper perspective. This is a technique that is at least as old as the Apostle Paul, who said: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

It takes discipline and practice to make this a habit. This is because many people are born with a negative bias in the way they see life. Research indicates that the brain is more likely to focus on negative feelings instead of positive feelings. This has been referred to as the FUD Factor (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). When our thoughts are left unattended they wander into the wilderness of negativity and stumble into the cesspool of distress.

This is one reason Paul said that we need to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).” Some thoughts can be wonderfully captivating; however, others are so powerful in their negativity a person becomes a prisoner of his own mind.

When you give some thought to your pattern of thinking, you become aware of your self-talk; and, you can begin to identify it as wholesome conversation that builds your self-esteem and glorifies God or an attack on who you are in Christ.  When you begin to recognize the pattern of your thoughts, you’ve taken the first step into transformative thinking that will renew your mind (Romans 12:2).

Head Games

skull3-01-111413-2344I came across some statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health concerning fear and worry. After reading the findings, I find myself fearing that people worry too much or, worrying that people fear too much.
The study by the NIMH indicates that:
• 60% of fears are over things that will never happen.
• 30% of fears are focused on things that happened in the past
• 90 % of fears are somewhat insignificant
• 88% are health-related fears (hypochondriacs)

The Anxiety and Depression Society of America has stated that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). Uncontrolled worry can have a debilitating effect on a person’s appetite, relationships, job performance, and sleep.

Please pay attention to this: Whatever gets your attention gets you. The content of your thoughts determine the contentment of your life.

As you read this you might say: “You’re crazy! You don’t know what’s happening in my life!” Statements like this are externally focused. While it’s true there are times when we have no control over the externals of life, we do control the internals.

A key means of controlling the internals is to be introspective with a proper perspective. This is a technique that is at least as old as the Apostle Paul, who said: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

It takes discipline and practice to make this a habit. This is because many people are born with a negative bias in the way they see life. Research indicates that the brain is more likely to focus on negative feelings instead of positive feelings.

The brain’s focus on negative feelings has been called the FUD Factor (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). When our thoughts are left unattended they wander into the wilderness of negativity and stumble into the cesspool of distress.

This is one reason Paul said that we need to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Some thoughts can be wonderfully captivating; however, others are so powerful in their negativity a person becomes a prisoner of his own mind.

How aware are you of the hundreds of mental-messages that flash through your mind each day? Is your self-talk wholesome conversation that builds your self-esteem and glorifies God? 1index When you begin to recognize the pattern of your thoughts, you’ve taken the first step into the transformation that renews your mind (Romans 12:2).

Psalm 37 or Scripture Guitar-Players Hate

There are three times in Psalm 37 where we are told that we should not play the guitar. This statement is supported by the three words found in verses 1, 7, and 8: Do not fret.

If you notice the diagramed picture of the guitar, Fret-Diagram2you can see that frets are an important part of a guitar. To be a skilled guitar player, the musician finds fretting to be an essential.

Well, I guess it’s time to let the guitar-players off the hook. The fret on a guitar is a noun, and the word “fret” as used in this Psalm is a verb.

Fretting, as used in Psalm 37, is the idea of a smoldering worry or anger that becomes a consuming blaze. You probably know someone who frets over most decisions or every item of life in general. They are consumed by anxious attitudes and worry.

In this Psalm, David gives Five Facts to Free us from Fretting:

Fact #1: Trust in the Lord, and do good” (Psalm 37:3). This is a heads and tails coin-like approach: Heads is the intellectual side of the coin that involves trust (Psalm 118:8-9). The flip-side of the coin is tails and it is the practical aspect of doing good (Romans 12:21).

Remember this as TRUSTING and TASKING. The trusting is an attitude and the tasking is an action. The moments of worry are managed by the movements of your heart, hands, and feet as you do begin the task of doing good.

Fact#2: “Delight thyself also in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4). It is impossible to be a delight-er and a fright-er at the same time. The idea in the Hebrew is to pamper yourself in God, and this accomplished by polishing the heart with the principles of God’s word (Matthew 6:33).

Fact #3: “Commit thy way unto the Lord” (Psalm 37:5). This is the decision to “choose the way of truth (Psalm 119:30-33).” To follow this thought, contrast the commitment of Demas in Colossians 4:14 and 2 Timothy 4:10.

Fact #4: “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). The prophet Zechariah captured the meaning of this when he said: “Let all people be silent before the Lord, for He is coming from His holy dwelling (Zechariah 2:13).” Focus your thoughts on the majestic power of God and not on the circumstances of life.

Fact #5: “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath” (Psalm 37:8). The idea is to turn from the burn. Make the conscious decision to focus your attention on something else. FRET

As I’ve said before, I like to read The Message for its devotional value. Notice how it phrases this verse: “Bridle your anger, trash your wrath, cool your pipes—it only makes things worse. Before long the crooks will be bankrupt; God-investors will soon own the store.”

You can grasp the principles of Psalm 37 by becoming verb-conscious and embracing the relationship as seen in the graphic to the left.

The Day and the Hour

Before you get started reading, I want to ask you to do three things.  First, look at your calendar and see what the date is.  Second, look at your watch or a clock to see what time it is.  Third, answer this question:  What were you worrying about in 2011 at this exact date and time?

Most people have a little trouble answering my question.  If you can remember what you were worrying about, I hope you discovered that all that worrying didn’t really change the outcome of your situation.

People worry about all sorts of things.  Some people get depressed because they worry about what they perceive to be impending doom.  I know some people who worry themselves into anxiety attacks because they are focused on what might potentially happen.   Anger, shame and guilt can also be the results of thoughts that focus on catastrophic thinking (thinking in terms of always, never, should have and oughts).

The truth is, sometimes people worry themselves sick.  Worry and stress have been linked to a higher risk for illness, including conditions such as obesity and hypertension.  Some people attempt to manage their proclivity to worry through self-help techniques.

While self-help measures can be very beneficial, I put a priority on the principles of Scripture.  In the case of worry, I like Philippians 4:6-7:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I hope  the words of Charles Mayo are thoughts that will keep you thinking:  Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system, and profoundly affects the health. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt.