Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by negative feelings. They may be there because of a conflict in your marriage, difficult work situations, problems with your children, financial difficulties or just a feeling of hopelessness because life seems so unfair.
Is there anything that can be done about these negative feelings? Can we control our feelings? Can we change them? If you were asked to make yourself feel happy you would probably think of a wonderful experience you have had like winning a prize or experiencing a special celebration. On the other hand if you were asked to feel sad you would think of a very devastating or sad experience. This tells us that our feelings are usually connected to our thoughts. Often we cannot control the circumstances that lead to our thoughts but we can choose how we want to think about them and that in turn affects our feelings.
Paul found himself in a difficult situation one day. He had been so faithful in serving the Lord. He had given his life to share the Good News of the gospel. His heart was passionate to see people come to a faith in his risen Lord. But here he was, in prison, Probably with his feet in stocks. Paul could have said, “It’s not fair” We might say, he had reason to complain. He could have blamed God for his difficult situation. He could have been overcome by negative thoughts and feelings because of his circumstances but we see Paul making a choice. He chose to focus on the good things, the blessings in his life. We read about this choice in the book of Philippians.
Even though he was in prison he made a choice to think about things that are honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, what is excellent, and worthy of praise (Phil. 4. 8-9) and encourages his readers to do the same.
Paul made a choice to see the good that could come out of his imprisonment. He saw how his fellow Christians were encouraged to speak the word of God without fear, how the gospel was being shared in the prison, how his fellow Christians responded with kindness and we know how this also led to the writing of the book of Philippians in the Bible that has been so precious to Christians over the centuries.
Paul could rise above the negative circumstances because he chose to focus on the Lord. He chose to rejoice in all that the Lord offered him – his presence (v.s 5), peace when he gave his anxieties to the Lord (vs.6), contentment in all circumstances (vs.11 &12), strength to do all things (vs.13), and have all his needs met (v. 19)
We too have a choice like Paul did. Difficult circumstances can so easily cause us to focus on negative thoughts which create negative feelings and also actions. This sets in motion a negative cycle that only leads to unhappiness, darkness and despair. In the same way, as we choose to focus on the blessings and the resources we have in the Lord, as Paul did, feelings of peace and rejoicing in the the Lord will follow.
Joan and Diana both faced the difficulty of having their marriage end in divorce. Joan spent years thinking how unfairly she had been treated, blaming her husband, complaining to everyone who would listen and mistrusting men because of it. She ended up feeling miserable and unhappy. Diana decided to make the best of her situation by going back to school and starting a career so she could support her family. She chose to forgive and focus on the positive things in life and on her faith in God. Her positive attitude helped her to do well at her job, be a good mom and eventually she attracted a wonderful Christian husband. It was all about how each chose to think about a difficult situation.
What do you choose to do with your difficult circumstances? You can choose to rejoice in the Lord as outlined in Philippians and dwell on the positive thoughts. These positive thoughts will produce positive feelings and also lead to actions that will bless and encourage others.
Philippians 2:13 tells us that God is work within us and helps us to want to do what He wants and then empowers us to do it. This means thinking positive thoughts. You may have God in your live, but not the Director of your life. I would encourage you to pray the following prayer asking Him to be the One who empowers you to think positive thought
Dear Father, I need you. I acknowledge that I have sinned against you by directing my own life. I thank you that You have forgiven my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled, and as You promised in Your Word that You would do if I asked in faith. I pray this in the name of Jesus. As an expression of my faith, I thank You for directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit. Amen.