Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Between You and Me / The Power of Negative Thinking

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and there be any praise, think on these things.”
Philippians 4:8

My husband and I bought our first Van after all eight of our children were born. So with our pickups and our Suburban our front seats were not divided. Not until several years after our youngest was born did we buy our first vehicle that had a divided front seat. So for almost half of our married years, I was able to sit next to my husband when he would drive. If you’re under thirty years old, you probably can’t relate to the past few sentences.

We raised our children before the strict safety laws were passed. So we always had a baby in the front with us. Although it would have been very practical to have placed our little one between the two of us, my husband would always put the seat or bed by the door, so I could sit next to him. He was very particular about there being nothing between him and me.

That was also an important principle in our marriage. There should never be anything between a husband and wife, in order for there to be a sweet relationship.

In a few days my children and I will be remembering that Sunday afternoon six years ago, when my husband went to Heaven. Now that I’m a widow, I find myself becoming more aware of things that come between the Lord and me…things that make it harder for me to feel His presence. When I become negative in my thinking, it’s hard for me to sense His nearness.

As I prepare this lesson, I find myself in a lovely hotel room, with an adjoining room where my son, David, and his wife, Jolene, and their three children are staying. I will be traveling with them, as they visit churches in America for the next few months, before their return to Ukraine, where they serve as missionaries. If you really want to spend quality time with someone, go on a road trip with them. One thing that impresses me most about my son is his positive thinking. I’ve observed many obstacles during this trip, which included a cross-country trip through Mexico. But he refuses to give up, or give in to little setbacks. And there’s power in that kind of thinking. Positive thinking achieves goals.

There was a book out several years ago called The Power of Positive Thinking. I never read it, but without even opening it, one can imagine the teaching of the author.

But there’s also power in negative thinking. I’ve experienced it recently, as I’ve had such thoughts as: “I’m not going to have enough money, I’m going to run out of time, and I’m not going to get this lesson ready by my deadline.”

So I’ve come up with a little remedy: as we were traveling along today, I was having such negative thoughts. They began to cloud my mind, and my disposition. So I just imagined myself sitting at a big desk, in a lovely room, leisurely working on this lesson. And immediately I felt my spirit brighten, and the Lord lifted my burden.

And here I am.

When I prepare my lessons, I must keep a positive attitude. Sometimes I have to psyche myself up by thinking, “Someone needs this. This is going to be a blessing to someone today. This may even change someone’s life, or even save their marriage.”

It’s more fun to be positive than to be negative. For example, if you’re a homemaker, just imagine yourself standing in your laundry room surrounded by piles of dirty laundry. You can either lie down on top of the clothes, and cry yourself to sleep in a fit of depression. Or you can close your eyes and imagine those clothes washed and folded in nice organized stacks. That’s a great motivator, also, to get busy and do something about our challenges.

There is an element of faith to thinking positively. You have to learn to trust. Trust the Lord to supply time you don’t have, strength you don’t possess, or money you lack in order to carry out your responsibilities and commitments. That’s what Salvation is all about. If you don’t trust the Lord to supply the faith that you lack in order to believe in His death, burial, and resurrection, you can’t be saved.

Positive thinking isn’t a humanistic approach to living. It’s a biblical principal. In Philippians 4:4-8, Paul tells us that our attitude has a lot to do with our relationship with the Lord. We can either rejoice, or complain. We have the choice to trust, or to worry; we can grumble, or be thankful; we can always be telling others about our problems, or we can tell them to the Lord. When we choose the positive options, we have peace with God, and therefore our relationships with others are what they should be. I’m not making this up. That’s what Paul is telling us.

Did you know negative thinking can affect your health? I’m told that many people who have stomach ailments are worriers. Many, many years ago when my husband and I first moved to San Cristóbal, we became acquainted with a precious couple who were quite a bit older than we were. We would get so amused at them. Hubby was a happy-go-lucky sort of fellow, and enjoyed eating right off the carts of the Indian street vendors in our little mountain valley home. He never was sick. His wife, however, was always sick. She would prepare “bugs” which I believe amounted to yogurt that she would consume in ample amounts in order to “keep the bacteria away.” She would come to my young husband, being the only American doctor in town, and he would kindly prescribe medication for her stomach upsets, and lovingly and patiently give her advice to calm her tummy woes. But later he’d smile as he’d tell me, “If she’d just go out to dinner every once in a while with her husband, and eat what he eats and relax, she wouldn’t have that trouble.”

At the risk of sounding pious, my desire is for everything I do to be part of what produces God’s perfect plan for my life. So when I doubt and fear that I will lack anything in order to carry out that plan, whether it is money, strength, time, wisdom, health or protection, I’m building a wall between the Lord and me. Doubt is the opposite of faith; fear is the opposite of trust; and doubt and fear produce negative attitudes and negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts are exhausting; thinking positively energizes and motivates.

Negative thinking never makes dreams come true; negative thinking destroys.

Negative attitudes are powerful enough to make a child fail in his studies, and negative thinking makes for unreached goals.

Do you think your husband’s plan to start his own business is a lot of nonsense? Imagine him as an important CEO. Negative thinking can destroy a marriage, because it longs for encouraging words from its mates.

Do you have a child who is failing in Math? Encourage him as if he were making straight A’s. A child’s confidence is torn down by the power of a mother’s negative thinking.

I pray this prayer every morning: “Lord, help me to be a blessing to those around me.” But when I have a negative attitude, I affect others in a negative way.

However, the greatest damage my negative thinking does is to shadow the presence of God in my life. And just between you and me…

I don’t want that to happen.


Anna said...

Thank you for this devotional! It encouraged my heart!

I love you and miss you.


Jennifer said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! If only I could clearly communicate the encouragement you just blessed my heart with! If only you knew the internal struggles I've been having!

Thank you so much!!!

Jana said...

Hi Mrs. Slone. You do not know me personally but I believe you will remember my husband Doug's family. Don and Elaine Rogers? Missionaries in Veracruz, Ver.? I am so glad I found your blog! God Bless!