I could tell she was frantic as she came into the room scanning for a seat, but only one remained- right beside me and my baby. I smiled and invited her to join us, but immediately regretted it. She went into a barrage of questions and complaints... “The parking here is horrible! Why would they schedule middle school curriculum night for all three grades on the same night when there isn’t enough parking? I had to park down the road and walk up…. This school does a terrible job communicating with students’ parents- did you know about this meeting? And the traffic to get here was just ridiculous!’ After answering a few of her questions, she concluded with, “I hate it, hate it, hate it here!”
It was clear that nothing I could say would make a difference. It wouldn’t matter if I told her this is an amazing community to raise a family, or that the school system may be big and impersonal, but that my children have both had good experiences so far, or that she would eventually get her bearings and possibly grow to love this new area. She was so focused on her frustrations that everything was awful awful awful!
“For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15 (NLT)
I used to be that woman. In fact, it is my natural bent in a sense, so it is hard not to default into the negative every time things don’t go my way. But I don’t want to be negative or pessimistic. It is repelling. Literally. I don’t know of anyone who seeks out the most negative person in the room and excitedly approaches them for conversation.
When I read a verse like Proverbs 15:15, I am convicted of the times that my own negativity tends to feed and breed more negativity until there is something wrong or problematic each and every day. And this negativity, which is often disguised as something else like “concern,” gives rise to criticism and anxiety, robbing me of the joy of life.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a leading Neuro-Metacognitive specialist, has researched the human brain for over 25 years and has groundbreaking discoveries that confirm the truth of Scriptures written thousands of years ago! She reports that negative thoughts actually occupy space in the brain, that negativity is truly toxic to the brain, and that at least 87% of medical illnesses are related to toxicity of our thoughts!
“For the despondent, every day brings trouble…” That’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
And that cycle tends to gain speed and momentum like a boulder traveling downhill. Once it starts, it takes a
deliberate and an over powering effort to stop it and end its destructive path.
But I don’t want daily trouble. I want the “continual feast!”
“…For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.”
A happy heart? How is that accomplished… Really?
Aren’t we all struggling daily with something? Whether it is in relationships, finances, careers, parenting, physical illness, or general discouragement, you name it, we all seem to have something that has the potential to drag us down into the pit of negativity. Scriptures do not say that we simply ignore the difficulties we face, but we do not have to allow them to rob us of our joy which is NOT based on circumstance.
But how do we cultivate a joyful heart in spite of our circumstances? How do we stop a boulder from careening down the hill and taking out everything and everyone in its path?
Paul told the Philippians, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil 4:8) (NIV)
Thinking on His love, His work on our behalf, and His commitment to be with us, meeting all of our needs, gives rise to hope and positive thinking. Paul, through the Spirit’s prompting, knew something about the power of our thoughts. He knew that thanksgiving, and a grateful heart for who God is and what He has done, produces peace and joy, which is a safeguard for our minds against the destructive impact of negative thoughts.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7) (NIV)
That is a mind that is free from the damage and toxicity of negative thoughts; free from the constant sorrows of a despondent heart.
It is a mind that is at peace and filled with joy regardless of circumstances.
That produces a continual feast!
How about you? Do you view your life as being filled with constant sorrows or as a continual feast? How do you think others see you?
P.S. As I have taught my daughter the power of her thoughts and urged her to utilize the Philippians 4:8 passage, I gave her an acrostic by rearranging the letters of each type of thought Paul teaches us to consider: PLANTER
E-EXCELLENT & PRAISEWORTHY
Think about such things!
Give it a try!