The words were out of my mouth before I even realized it. Complaints, grumbles, grouchiness. One unkind word led to another, each bringing with it a cascade of bitterness and resentment. In the midst of my tirade, I realized my husband was being very quiet, and in that moment of silence, I heard the echoes of my complaints. What is the matter with me? I questioned as the Lord brought to my memory the lessons I had been teaching in Sunday School—lessons about guarding our hearts and minds. Immediately, I was ashamed and apologized to my husband and to the Lord for my sorry attitude.
Isn’t it amazing how quickly we can give in to negative thoughts and feelings without even realizing they’re there? For me, I was feeling tired and stressed after a busy weekend, but still, it was no excuse for allowing those thoughts and feelings to fester like they did. The fact is, I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t guarding my heart and mind. I was simply allowing them to run free wherever they wanted to roam which is never, ever a good idea!
Fortunately, Philippians 4:6-7 spells out for us a three-step process to guard our hearts and minds. If we’ll follow the procedure set down in this passage, we’ll find more peace and less bitterness.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
1) Don’t worry about anything. – The phrase “be careful for nothing” is another way of saying “don’t worry about anything.” Nothing! Don’t worry about the job or about how the bills are going to get paid. Don’t worry about your sickness or the doctor’s latest diagnosis. Don’t worry about your relationships, your possessions, or your life’s circumstances. Worry only leads to bitterness, resentment, stress, and depression. Not only are these things unhelpful, but they can actually compound the problem. The apostle Paul makes it clear: don’t worry about it. If you’re like me, right about now you’re saying, “But if I don’t worry about it, nothing will change.” Ah, that’s where step two comes into play.
2) Pray about everything. – Let’s face it, when things go wrong in our lives, seldom is it our first instinct to turn to the Lord in prayer. But it should be. Worry can’t fix the problem. We can’t find the solution. Only God is capable of dealing with the problems in our lives, whether they be big or small. When troubles arise or we face a decision, our first course of action ought to be to take the matter to the Lord in prayer. Ask for help or direction. Seek His will for your life. Instead of stressing about what you can’t do, take it to the only One who can do something about it. And then, you can move onto to step three.
3) Give thanks for all things. – Even before we receive an answer from God, we ought to give Him thanks. Thanks for what He’s already done in our lives. Thanks for what He’s going to do. Thanks for Who He is. He deserves our unending praise and gratitude. Unfortunately, He seldom gets it. We’re too busy trying to “fix” things on our own to realize that He’s both willing and able to help. Then, even when He does help, we have the tendency to act as if it were owed to us. God owes no man anything! We are the debtors, not Him. He doesn’t have to help us, but He chooses to do so. He doesn’t have to love us, but He does. Don’t you think He deserves a “thank you” every now and then? Better yet, don’t you think He deserves an unending stream of “thank yous”?
We live in a fallen world, and because of that, every day we must face another spiritual battle. Satan and his minions are out to destroy us, and while they can’t take away our salvation, they can certainly cause trouble within our hearts and minds. But God has given us a means of escape (I Corinthians 10:13), and by following these three steps on a daily basis, we can build a barricade around our vulnerable areas. And the best part of all is that we don’t have to do it alone. God will be with us every step of the way, which is just another reason to give Him thanks.
Do you struggle with unhealthy thoughts and feelings? What steps have you implemented to protect your heart and mind? Have they been effective?