Over the past several weeks, we have extensively discussed the art of a grace-filled life. In Proverbs 11:16, it is said that a gracious woman retains honor. Lois and I have been challenged time and time again that we ought to be gracious women such as this, inspiring us to dig a little deeper into what the Bible says about being gracious in all that we do.
It is sort of funny how when you begin to share what the Lord is teaching you about something, you suddenly become more aware of your actions. You realize that you need to – sorry for being so cliché – “practice what you preach”! You face situations that test you in the area that you’re seeking to grow in. To be honest, I have faced many such situations since we started writing about the gracious woman. I wish I could say that I passed every test, but I’m still a work in progress and I always will be. The good news is that I can keep trying. So again, I was challenged to exam this topic and ask the question, “How can I grow in grace?”
Do you ever struggle with negative thinking? I do. The Lord reminded me this week just how much my thought life impacts the way I treat those around me. When I am dwelling on what is going wrong instead of focusing on the blessings of God, I have a jaded perception of people and situations around me. My attitude is affected by the turmoil in my heart, and my spirit toward others is tainted by my thoughts. It is really hard to be gracious toward others when your mind is not in tune with God’s Word.
Some days we must fight to get rid of our negative thoughts. Not all days are equal. I’ll be the first to admit that it is easier for me to be bright and cheerful when I feel like I’m “winning”. No wonder Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10 that this Christian life is a spiritual battle.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
Gracious thinking doesn’t happen by accident. It is a conscious choice that we make. We must take hold of our minds and submit them to the Lord. This is obedience to Christ.
Oh my, but there are so many troublesome thoughts to ponder these days! Perhaps your attitude toward your life and the people around you is right, but your heart is distressed by what is beyond that. This world we live in is broken, and its harsh realities invade our minds. You were not meant to shoulder these burdens alone. The more weighted down you are, the more weary you become.
May I share a few ways to combat those thoughts that overwhelm us? I am not sharing this because I have perfected it; I am sharing this because it’s a reminder to myself, too.
1) Commit your thoughts to the Lord and ask Him for help.
How often have I felt completely frustrated only to remember that I haven’t taken time to ask God to help me? The Holy Spirit is a faithful Helper to remind me that I need to call upon God. He forgives me, strengthens me, and comforts me. As women of faith, we are not helpless to the darkness that threatens to swallow us. We have Hope, and His name is Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 6:19 says, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;”
2) Replace negative thoughts with something lovely.
Our thought life is a choice. I cannot over emphasize this! Choose to think about what is pure and good.
“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 if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
3) Redirect your idle thoughts to something that will benefit you or others.
Sometimes I have to just get up and start over. Maybe I need to ask myself, “What can I do to keep myself busy right now?” “Is there someone I can be a blessing to today?”
Read your Bible. Send a handwritten note to someone. Bake your favorite treat. Listen to Christ-honoring music. Oh, so many things can help us refocus and lift our minds to where they should be.
When our thoughts are pleasing to the Lord, we will be vessels of grace. When you see people as He sees them, you will respond to them graciously. When you replace worrisome thoughts with trust in God, you will have the words you need to encourage those around you. This is a moment-by-moment decision. This is a grace-filled life.