As you know, school doesn’t teach you the most important lessons in life. You don’t learn how to have rich relationships, you don’t learn about health, no one teaches you the proper use of finances nor do they teach you to discover and use your gifts—to name a few important subjects in life. You certainly don’t learn “how to think”. I didn’t know there was a way to “think” until a few years ago and it truly changed my life.
I am not talking about when a person is born again, and they receive a new nature in Christ. That rebirth transforms your spirit. We will discuss that aspect in regards to being discouraged in a moment. Right now however, I’m talking about a skill that saved or unsaved people can learn as it is “mental”. This skill is to monitor the thoughts that enter our minds. Instead of letting negative thoughts meander around our brains unchecked, we are to control and choose which thoughts we decide are allowed to hang around awhile.
God has given Christ-followers a list of what to think about in Philippians 4:8. The thoughts that are profitable to think about are the ones that are “true… honorable… just… pure… lovely… commendable… excellent… or worthy of praise”. We are not to think about what is “awful, terrible, horrible, upsetting, sinful, or disappointing”.
An example might help.
This last weekend something happened to one of my children that if it had happened eight years ago, I would have fallen through the floor. (One nice thing about having six kids is that no one ever knows which child I’m talking about.) I mean honestly, eight years ago, I would have become unglued if this same situation would have happened. But since I have learned “Philippians 4:8 Thinking”, I was able to sail through, think proactively, and not dive down into emotional hysteria.
There are several aspects to “Philippians 4:8 Thinking” which we will now discuss.
The first thought to immediately think when you are presented with bad news is, “Somehow, God will use this for good in my life and in the lives of those I love, even though I can’t see it right now.” That kind of thinking—that there is a glad surprise around the river bend—will immediately pull you up and out a bit. We extract this truth from Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28. The ugliness of your current circumstance will try to tell you how bad this situation is. Having these sentences written in your TJ are helpful to have when unwanted situations arrive.
Another Philippians 4:8 thought that is helpful to think is that “although this seems horrible right now, other people have had hard things like this before and they recover and conquer the situation. Just because this seems horrible/terrible/crummy-to-the-max at the moment, we will get through this because God can shift things. God gives His children the ability to rise and press forward. We do not have to stay in ditches. Yes, this is an unwanted circumstance, but how I think about something determines my emotions.” (Remember the alley/park examples? WSO Lesson 2, Section 1). And if I can believe/think that God is for me, that God can see the whole picture, that I am not helpless, but instead, I am actually very resourceful with God’s creativity pumping through my mind, then I can hugely corral my emotions in a positive direction.
Another example of what to say to yourself when faced with unwanted circumstances is a sentence like, “At least it is not X or Y” (think of something worse). This thinking enables you to access your gratefulness buttons and be glad for what this “wasn’t” (it can always be worse).
In contrast, if I let my weak mind tumble down into “how terrible, how awful, I’ll never recover from this situation, we’ll never be able to fix this”, not only will my emotions go bonk, my creativity for problem solving will be hindered.
I am going to take a situation that did NOT happen for an illustration. (Honestly, this is NOT the issue of the past weekend.) Let’s say one of our five unmarried sons gets a girl pregnant out of wedlock. That’s a very harsh situation to happen to a Christian family. The embarrassment, the questions about whether the kids should get married, decisions about who rears the baby, etc. are huge. That trial is tremendously heart-breaking for Christian families.
If that trial happened (God forbid), the first thing I would do is to fight all the millions of “downer” thoughts that would come pressing into my mind. I would try to replace them with Philippians 4:8 thoughts. Examples would be “God is going to eventually use this situation to bless our family”; “Other Christian families have gone through this and it didn’t undo them”; “This won’t change how people who love me view me”; “God has a plan to bless this baby”; “God has a plan to use this in the life of my son”; “We have the resourcefulness to find out how other people who have had this trial have coped”; and on and on. If you fall into “This is awful, this is terrible, how will I take this?” you will not only be terribly upset, but you can’t minister to others, because you need ministering to. In these situations, you need to rise above circumstances, be the voice of reason, the voice of hope, the voice of sanity, the voice of overcoming…not the voice of “poor-pitiful-me” and “how-will-I-make-it?”
Proverbs 31:25 says “She is clothed with strength and dignity”. You can’t portray strength and dignity if you are belly-aching in a ditch because your weak mind is out-of-control with negative thoughts. You have to believe God is going to use this hard circumstance for good and go forth in that faith. You have to control your mind and not let those negative, “how-horrible-this-is” thoughts parade across the screen of your brain.
I was actually shocked this last weekend when the trial happened and I responded with “Philippians 4:8 Thoughts”. I was able to speak softly and with comfort to the hurting young adult. No guilt. No slamming. No harshness. God has changed me in this area, and if you struggle with your thoughts/emotions, I’m sure He wants to change you, too. We are to “gird up the loins of our mind” (1 Peter 1:13). Loins were the long, flowing parts of robes that people wore in Biblical times and if they needed to walk fast or work, they would “gird up” the loins of their garments so the flowing, cumbersome loins wouldn’t get in the way. We are to “gird up the loins of our mind”, not letting the flowing, cumbersome thoughts get in the way. Your negative, “woe-is-me-this-is-terrible” thoughts need to be girded up. They are not helpful; they are damaging. Kick them out of your mind by intentionally thinking about something else. Refuse to let “non-Philippians 4:8 Thoughts” rest in your mind.
This Philippians 4:8 Thinking has been life-altering to me. Just a few minutes ago, I was getting chicken off the bone for soup tonight and rather randomly, I thought about how I had “failed in an area”. The thought tiptoed in and wanted a seat in my brain’s living room. “No-sir-ee,” I said, “I’m not going to go down that discouraging path” and I got busy thinking about something else. We are not helpless with our emotions and mental health! Your thoughts are powerful but you can battle your “non- Philippians 4:8 Thoughts”.
The angst from this weekend’s blow has already subsided to some extent. But actually, I feel like I usually do in the morning. No despair. No “down and out”. In fact, I have joy this morning. Hope. Faith. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and give you a hope and a future.” I choose to believe that God gave us this trial as an eventual blessing and to do us good.
Memorize Jeremiah 29:11. Believe it. God is FOR you. There is a “glad surprise around the river bend”.
Learning to think like this not only allows you to enjoy the internal landscape of your brain more, it makes you a much more delightful wife and mother. The woman is the heart of her home and if she is a Philippians 4:8 Thinker, that means she is watering her family with those positive thoughts, affecting how the others in the home think. My sad son was here this weekend, thinking life was terrible. “This situation is not terrible and horrible,” I reminded him, “only highly inconvenient”. We have to help our children learn to think right, too.
Use your Turquoise Journal to list the benefits of trials and unwanted circumstances. Frame the trial in a positive light. Don’t give any room to negative, pessimistic, down-and-out thinking. Be a woman who “is clothed with strength and dignity” and controls her thoughts, not a weak-willed, whiny alleycat. Be mentally strong and simultaneously, be ridiculously soft in your heart. (Now that’s a combo in a woman that I admire!)
I am blessed to say that many of my friends have Philippians 4:8 Thinking. My sister-in-law, Michelle, has been making lemonade out of lemons for years. I was a complete loser in this area for the longest time, but God has given me “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3). And He can do that for you, too.
I repeatedly harp on your mental health and exhort you to be a “happy, grateful, person-in-a-good-mood” because it is imperative if you want to be a delightful spouse (and as I’ve said, for you to enjoy you). Grouchy, negative, upset, depressed, unhappy women drain the life out of everyone (and what a bummer to live with yourself!). You will have many difficult and unwanted circumstances during your life. Since that is the norm, why do you kick and scream so when it happens? Instead, learn to calmly say to yourself (I actually have sentences like these written down in my TJ), “Oh, here’s a trial. Yes, this is unwanted, but I know these things happen. I will face it, walk through it, pray over it, research it, get counsel for it, and then, I will not let it dominate my thinking. I will put it on the shelf in heaven where I know God is using it for my good, even though I can’t see it right now. Yes, I will proactively seek solutions. However, I will not let this disappointment turn into discouragement. Life includes disappointment, but that is not synonymous with discouragement. Discouragement comes from repeatedly thinking about disappointment. Heaven will be free from disappointments, but life on earth will have an abundance of them. Therefore, I will learn to live above my trials by controlling my thoughts (focusing on ‘what is good’ and guarding against thinking about what is missing and disappointing).”
You do not have to be “a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). This is a perfect description of what unguarded, negative, non-Philippians 4:8 thoughts do to your brain.
Now let’s talk about the spiritual aspect of discouragement. This morning, I read Ephesians 6:10-20 about spiritual warfare. Verse 12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Friends, you have an Enemy, seeking to destroy and devour you. Don’t try to fight him in your own strength. In the presence of the Lord, say to Satan, “Satan, get thee behind me. I don’t come against you in my own strength, but in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be gone!” (That’s not praying to the devil. Dr. Rogers used to say it was like saying “scat” to a cat.) Spiritual warfare is real and alive. Pray a hedge of protection around your children, begging God to protect them from evil. Pray that the peace of God that surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:7) is downloaded to you from God. You have access to this peace as well as access to His phenomenal guidance (Is. 30:21).
We are body, soul (mental), and spirit. Let’s quickly talk about the physical side of discouragement. A woman who repeatedly eats a lot of sugar and refined carbs throws off her hormones. The women in my Skinny School group say they have “recovered their sanity” by ditching sugar and unhealthy starches. We are mental-spiritual-physical beings and we must repeatedly address all three areas. You know how easy it is to be a coward when you are exhausted.
Discouragement is not something you have to accept and live with. Yes, you have to accept and live with your disappointing circumstances, but not with discouragement. The difference in the life of a woman with a happy heart over the years (versus one who is not) is like a bank account where $1000 is deposited weekly for ten years versus one where $1 is deposited weekly for the same time. I admit that for years, I often struggled with discouragement before God opened up this truth and told me that I could conquer it with His help. This morning, my seventeen year old and I were talking as he walked out the door to school and he said something that could have been interrupted as “abrasive”. But because my heart was full and happy, I laughed and said, “Well, good-bye, Affirming and Encouraging Son.” He laughed and then went on to explain how “he was like me in this area and that it really wasn’t so bad if you look at it like this, blah, blah”. He hadn’t meant to be abrasive. I just had not understood him. So we laughed and shared a moment. What if my heart had been down when he said that? What if I was offended and started down the “correction path” instead of the light-hearted path? Girls, there are no/none/zero excuses if you are a Debbie-Downer. Slice off her head! I am going to send you a Wife School Online “Table of Contents” soon. Go back and reread all the lessons on a happy heart, contentment, laughing at the days to come, etc. until you figure out how to get a heart that sings and rejoices in the portion you were given, knowing that you call on a God who listens, a God who cares, a God who moves in response to prayer. Fix your mind, fix your prayer life, and you’ll fix your discouragement.