Ornament of Grace

Ornament of Grace
April 18, 2018

THINKING RIGHT

I was probably about six or seven years old, when I first heard it. As a child, I recall being so struck by the simplicity of this now familiar verse, that I memorized it on the spot! Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” I have always thought of it as the simple answer to every life situation. Hiding the living, breathing Word of God in the recesses of our heart allows the Holy Spirit to bring it to our mind, just when we need it most. Facing a challenging situation recently, this is exactly what happened for me.

Neither I nor my husband would have chosen to be apart during these past 5 weeks while he was away on a missions trip to Africa. Several months ago, when he told me he did not have complete peace about me going with him, I told him I would do whatever he felt was the Lord’s will. After much prayer, the answer he received was not what either of us wanted to hear, but honestly, while I knew it would be hard, I never questioned his decision to go alone. Over the years, I have learned to trust his surrendered heart to know the mind of the Lord. We both believe, that no matter what the situation, God’s way is always the very best way! Why would I not want that?

We discussed all these things before he left. We made plans together to support each other, grow individually, and strive to be as much of a blessing as possible over the coming weeks! We even decided to record our thoughts in journals to share with each other. At this writing, I don’t know all that the Lord taught him, but I will say the Lord has shown me some very important, albeit painful things. It began almost immediately. That first day, before I heard that he had landed safely on the other side of the world, doubts, fears and those pesky “what if’s” began swirling around in my brain, with plenty of anxiety in tow!

Even though I stayed very busy with responsibilities involving the care of my elderly parents, among other things, at times a sense of loss and loneliness washed over me without warning. I guess I didn’t quite realize the depth of the intricacies intertwining our lives after nearly 44 years of marriage! Even though I was in familiar surroundings, an uncomfortable reality was setting in for me. Whether I wanted to or not, at least for the time being, I realized I had some adjustments to make. After all, we both had decided together to make this time apart a blessing for all concerned, not the least of which was the two of us! With all my heart, I did not want to disappoint him.

I had daily choices to make. Would I allow my mind to “run away” with fearful, self-pampering thoughts- or worse, start second guessing my husband’s decision? Of course, I spent time with them, but it wasn’t right for me to place the burden of keeping myself content in my new “reality” on my family members who lived nearby! I knew I had to accept the fact that this challenge was exactly the Lord’s Will for me at this point in time. How would I respond? Would I simply endure the time apart, or take it on and grow through this experience? It was in the first day or two of my dear husband’s absence, that the Lord directed my thoughts to Philippians 4:13. This “childhood familiar” verse had a little surprise waiting for me! The first two words, “I can,” pulled me up short as I began to process those words in a whole new way!

Have you ever noticed when you are sick or experiencing some sort of loss, your emotions are more fragile than normal? In those times, our faith is usually weaker, as well. In difficult situations, Biblical promises like, “Nothing is impossible for the Lord,” can seem like they apply to everyone else but me.

I admit it. I was feeling especially lonely and vulnerable the day these two little words jumped off the page and grabbed my attention. “I can.” As I meditated on them, it occurred to me that despite my weaknesses, it is God’s Will for me to glorify Him in my life in this moment and in this day! Furthermore, through Him, I really can accomplish the task before me! God can give me exactly what I need to gain the victory in this challenge, or, for that matter, in any challenges He allows in my life. Literally, the first step is to choose to believe it is actually possible!

In those moments, I felt God’s comforting arms enfold me. I knew He was there, and in spite of what my emotions were telling me, I was not alone. Through my tears, I told the Lord I would do my best to rely on His strength and power to pass the test before me. I have noticed that something happens in my brain when I finally decide to just obey, and stop worrying about whether I think I am capable or whether I understand everything. My outlook changes! Things that I had been dreading or mentally exaggerating, start to fit together, seeming less insurmountable after all! Could it be that God has untapped blessings in store for His children, and He is just waiting for us to “let go” of our fears so He can open the floodgates?

Meditating further, I realized how easy it is for me to struggle with feelings of unworthiness. As a perfectionist, I am acutely aware of my own failings, which cause me to think I am not “good enough” to merit Divine attention. God’s fathomless, limitless love is way too vast for my mortal mind to ever comprehend. I must accept it by faith.

Considering my own children helps put my self-limiting fears into proper perspective. What loving parent does not want their child to succeed, or would not willingly sacrifice to help them do it? Being the perfect “parent,” our Heavenly Father also desires success for His children. While life on this planet will never be problem-free, it can be joy-filled! I CAN have a victorious life, as I maintain the right mindset in the midst of trials. Life is less about the circumstances, but more about my response to the circumstances! This “right focus” brings God the Glory He deserves! I am certainly no expert, but I truly believe our thoughts are the key. Over the past weeks, studying through Philippians, chapter four, I discovered many “golden nuggets” of truth that helped guide me to better thinking.
The chapter begins with the admonition to “stand fast in the Lord.” To do this, we may need to shut out some worldly influences. No matter what craziness may be going on around me, through Him, I can accomplish His Will for my life. The rest of Philippians four lays out exact steps to developing the confident, spiritual posture commanded in verse one.

Philippians 4:4 says “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice.” Deliberately adding active praise into my daily routine by reading, quoting Scripture out loud as well as singing songs like, “How Great Thou Art,” and “God is so Good,” encouraged my heart so much! It is amazing how fast a mood can change, when you choose to be joyful and sing to the Lord! Who cares how on pitch you are? Sing from your heart, as a gift of praise to your Saviour! If we wait until we “feel” like rejoicing, it may never happen! Instead, when we do what God commands, good feelings will follow.

It is edifying to read through Philippians 4: 8 on a regular basis. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” How many problems would be avoided if we were more diligent to filter our thoughts through this spiritual prism?

In a media-filled, highly distracting world, it can be so easy to have our joy stolen from us! Philippians 4:11, “For I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” was a helpful reminder to me. It has been said that comparison is the thief of joy. If I find myself envious, constantly fighting unspiritual thoughts toward others, I need to confess my sin, adjust my attitude, and get my eyes back on the Lord.

The latter part of Philippians 4 reminds us there is no need to worry, because God has everything under control. Verse 19 states, “My God shall supply all your need…” We get off track when we forget the promises of God. In what was a challenging time for us, I actually gained many blessings! On his return, my husband and I experienced a wonderful reunion! Going through a difficult time apart has actually deepened our love and caused us to appreciate each other more now than ever before! I need to be thankful for every stage of life. If I don’t, I may look back one day and wish I could be right where I am now! Why allow myself to miss the blessings I have in these moments? As I keep my eyes on Him, I can maintain a spiritual mindset.

As challenging as our time of separation was, the Lord taught me many things that blessed and encouraged my heart over the weeks while my husband was away. I wish I could say I had no problem adjusting my mindset and implementing every lesson. No, I didn’t do everything right the first time, and yes, I still have a lot more to learn. We all fail. We all make mistakes, but if I am humble enough to face and admit my fault, and if I am determined enough to get up and try again, I CAN succeed to the glory of the Lord!

What about you? What challenges are you facing? Are you seeking to be a better mom or wife? Are you struggling with personal issues such as laziness, needing to make better health choices, or feeling sorry for yourself? Do you tend to have a gossiping tongue or become a fear-filled “worry wart?” The quality of our life is really the sum total of our own personal choices. If we want a better life, we need to make better choices. Every person alive faces challenges. Blaming others is never a solution.

The first step to emerging successful in any situation involves THINKING RIGHT. God’s Word defines the correct mindset. God’s promises never fail, and if you are God’s child, through faith in His Son, those promises are there for you as well as anyone else. It doesn’t matter what the challenge may be. With God’s help, I CAN succeed, and so can you!