Have you ever had one of those nights where you’re laying in bed, the house is quiet, and you’re pretty sure you’re dying? Your head hurts, or you’re having a pain in the general region of your heart, or you have a stomach ache, and every possible malady that could drive a person to the ER is running through your mind?
That was me a few nights ago. I alternated between wondering if I was having a stroke or if I had a massive tumor growing in my stomach. And I’m not in any way making light of these very real concerns because I was genuinely concerned about them. I was awake in the middle of the night fretting about what could be wrong with me, and it had to be something more than a headache or achy stomach muscles.
If, like me, you have nights like this, or days where you feel like the whole world is talking behind your back or working against you, I’ll start by telling you that you’re not alone in this struggle. It’s very real. Whether it’s an anxiety disorder or just a reaction to a lifelong (or current) feeling of rejection, it’s normal for our minds to work overtime focusing on the negative or perceived adversities. For many of us, we’re so intimately familiar with fear and rejection that the voice has become our constant companion.
This is not a new problem. If you’re feeling alone in the struggle I encourage you to look around because chances are most of the people you see have a similar battle, no matter how confident they appear. In fact, I think people throughout time have struggled with this very thing.
If you’ve ever read Romans 12, maybe you know what I mean. The chapter reads like an instruction manual for people dealing with their thought lives. Words like, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” suggest that people have been struggling with their thoughts and how it affects their identity and actions for thousands of years. Then there’s “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Oh, how easy it is to be overcome rather than to be an overcomer.
Being mindful of my thoughts and how they affect my perceptions of myself and others, and ultimately how they control my actions and choices, has not come easy to me. Like I said, I’ve been so accustomed to the wrong thoughts that it’s a challenge to replace them with healthy alternatives. Much like replacing Cheetos with carrots when you’re on a diet, healthy thoughts may not feel as appetizing at first, but they will nourish and sustain you rather than meeting a temporary craving with toxic choices that benefit nothing.
So over the past few weeks I’ve been reminding myself to cling to what is good. Taken from Romans 12:9, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good,” the words remind me that sometimes it’s not so much an enjoyable undertaking, but rather it’s holding on for dear life, like you would cling to a life preserver if you were drowning.
Like when you’re laying in bed in the middle of the night worrying about your health.
We all know late night anxiety is rarely productive, while filling your mind with good thoughts and choosing to allow yourself to rest in faith and trust will likely give you the night of restorative sleep that your body clearly needs. But in that moment it’s so much harder to focus on the positive. We literally have to cling to what is good.
It’s why I think verses like, “…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” exist. When I was younger I thought it was just an admonition to live like a saint, to always be the good girl I should be. But as I get older, I see it as lifesaving instruction. To survive in this world we have to master our own thoughts or we risk getting dragged under by the current of life, peer pressure and popular culture.
Some of the challenges I face in changing my thinking come from what I feed into my mind. I’m a bad news junkie. If there’s some salacious story making the rounds on Facebook or the news app on my phone, you’d better believe I’m going to be reading it. It could be celebrities behaving badly or a massacre on the other side of the world – I read every detail known to man and then speculate on the unknown. But that hardly lends itself to thinking good thoughts. If I’m inundating my mind with the worst of humankind, it’s easy to get caught up thinking the worst of myself and others.
Trying to cling to the good doesn’t mean I’ve turned into Pollyanna. It doesn’t mean that I put on blinders to what’s happening in the world around me. But it does mean that I don’t choose to read every last detail about the latest serial criminal or dig through People online to get the gossip about celebrity marriages and career fails. There are so many other things to fill our minds with!
So I pursue my passions for writing and learn to be a better writer. I read up on the latest trends in home decor (and still try to practice contentment). I whip up new, sugar-free baking recipes or try my hand at gardening. (My strawberry plants are growing.) I temper Trump-watch with a good novel that inspires me now and then and I eschew The Bachelor in favor of Property Brothers. Most importantly, I make reading scripture a regular part of my day. Some days I start with it, some days I end with it, some days I do both.
An immediate life overhaul isn’t likely to happen for any of us, but taking little steps every day to change our thought processes can make a difference over time. “Cling to what is good” is not about becoming the next Mother Theresa but rather about thriving instead of just surviving each day.
How can you choose to cling to what is good in your own life? Share it with us. Share it with me. I’m sure some of you have great ideas that I just haven’t thought of yet.