Negativity is a natural human response. Especially nowadays when we’re surrounded by viral outbreaks, terror threats, and a spirit of worldliness that seems to be worsening by the nanosecond. It can be so hard remaining hopeful and determined to focus on the good, especially in difficult circumstances and environments, but keeping a God-centered perspective is the best way to combat negative thoughts, and it works.
Make Every Thought Captive…or at Least the Nasty Ones
Negativity is just a result of thoughts existing out of God’s will. 2 Cor. 10:5 says to take every thought captive to Christ. That means literally transferring every thought that whispers ‘you can’t do that,’ or ‘I wish I was her,’ or ‘ I’ll never get this right,’ and handing it over to the Lord. Plagued by thoughts you’ll never make it through your daughters’ rebellious teenage years? “All yours Lord!” Doubting you can make it another day with a boss that drives you nuts? “Another one for you, God!” It’s tough resisting negativity when your boss hijacks your intellectual property and stamps his name on your reports, but positivity is a mental exercise that trains your heart and your brain to see things through God’s eyes. Like any spiritual exercise, it takes some practice, but it helps to think, “how would Jesus think and act in this situation? Even if we’d be right, in the natural, to feel and act negatively, God calls us to let go and think differently. With a willing spirit, nothing is impossible with him.
Focus on the Positive, Even When You Need a Microscope
When we’re feeling negative about a certain circumstance, others or about ourselves, it does wonders by letting God change our perspective. If we focus on him, his goodness, his love and faithfulness, we can see past our negative thoughts. If you’re on hour no. 2 of sword fighting with your kids and you think your brain might de-combust at any moment, focus on the good—their cute voices, and the fact that soon they’ll be too cool to play Star Wars with mom—I mean, Obi Wan. If you feel like you have greater chances of discovering life on Mars than losing that last ten pounds, focus on the fact that you’re healthy and have the ability to exercise and move, when so many don’t. Rinse, repeat, and avoid complex carbs…they can’t be trusted.
Think about Heaven
More specifically, what life on this Earth really means. Okay, this might seem like a desperate, last ditch Hallmarked effort to perk a friend up, but in all seriousness, think about the eternal destiny of our lives when you’re really struggling with negative thoughts or facing extremely negative odds. I think we see the timeline of our existence all wrong. The Bible refers to this life as “but a vapor,” where our total purpose is to love and be loved by God and love others. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I can’t find any other purpose for life on Earth but to love the Lord and help others know him, through love. I think if we could imagine our lives really beginning when we’re perfected in heaven, we’d have different priorities, expectations, and feel a lot less disappointment and experience much less negativity. When feeling negative, I’ve placed my darkest struggles in the light of eternity, knowing that we’ll be spending our entire lives in beauty, joy, and total happiness and peace, with no limitations, fear, or worry. It really has helped.
Worship…Even through Gritted Teeth
The enemy uses negativity to rob us of our strength, joy, and peace. If he can control our thoughts and keep us thinking the worst, he’s won. Worshiping God is the single most effective tool to blast negativity. I’ve been in the depths of despair—that nasty post-break up kind of sorrow—and after army-crawling over to the Bethel Music playlist, I’ve gone from weeping to smiling within minutes. Worship changes the atmosphere and attacking/negative thought can’t remain in a room with Jesus. (Sing it, Jenn Johnson.) My life has never been a smooth ride, both for circumstantial reasons and self-imposed strife. Since getting saved, I’ve made huge mistakes, experienced some tough financial struggles, had a rough and rocky marriage, experienced divorce, and so many other struggles that are common to so many. I can honestly say no matter the circumstance or difficult season of life, I’m pretty sure I’ve worshipped almost every day. I remember driving to live at my mother’s house during our second (SECOND!!) marriage separation—three kids and a Pathfinder packed full to the brim, singing along to Kim Walker Smith’s “Walk with Me” at the top of my lungs, feeling sincere and pure joy, during a moment that should definitely have felt like despair. Worshipping in the storm might seem like a generic remedy to some, but when you’re singing yourself to sleep as a grownup in your old high school bedroom with window nailed shut because you roof-jumped so much, the joy is real.
Teach Your Heart to Trust
Negativity is, in many cases, just a lack of trust. When we think the worst about a circumstance, we’re not really believing Phil. 4:13’s “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” If we let negativity take over—“ I’ll never qualify for the loan” or “My marriage will never get better,” we’re limiting our reliance on God. It can be so difficult, but if we allow our hearts to totally trust in the Lord, he’s faithful to change our attitudes and our circumstances. But if we take him at his word, believing He’s greater than what we’re facing, and really apply Phil. 4:8—“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”—to our thought patterns, we’ll experience true freedom from negativity. It’s amazing.
One of my favorite true stories is about Huang Yizi, a Chinese pastor, who felt grateful for being sentenced to prison for his faith, because prison is a way to reach the lost. He had joy in the gravest of circumstances. There is absolutely a way to remain positive in the midst of negativity. Amen.