Day 26 of this Journey to Joy is exceptionally timely! Honestly, I began reading the book, 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life on a lark with my sister for Lent. I didn’t think I needed it, for heaven’s sake! But God knows what’s coming and he knows what we need better than we do. During the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020, some of Tom Newberry’s lessons have been lifelines for me. Today’s topic is dropping negative thoughts.
How easy it would be to succumb to the fear and panic that surround this crisis! The number of people infected is in the hundreds of thousands and deaths top 37,000 as of March 30, 2020. If that weren’t enough, many have lost jobs and financial security. We’ve lost freedom of movement and our day-to-day lives have changed enormously. So, yes! Practicing the principles taught by Philippians 4:6-8 have been crucial to experiencing peace and joy. Those verses bear repeating here:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Phil 4:6-8 NLT
On Day 26, Newberry suggests we just let go of negative thoughts. He says you can refuse to indulge them, rehash them, replay them, and otherwise foster them. He adds that when you neglect to drop negative thoughts, you chose to drink the poison. He is speaking of those negative thoughts we harbor under normal circumstances, of course. Annoyances with your spouse, your co-workers, the really bad driver in lane 2. Worse than harboring those thoughts, he states, is expressing them to the person you accuse of inspiring them or even to the nearest available ear. We call this “venting,” and we think it’s a good way to let off steam. It’s not. The steam burns twice—both the recipient of your rant and you. Newberry says, “Whatever you express to others is impressed upon yourself.”
The good news about letting the annoyances of daily life pass by without your attention is that it strengthens your ability to remain unruffled and joyful. Making a firm decision to choose your own emotional state rather than allowing anyone and everyone to disturb your peace makes it easier to weather situations like those in our world today. Of course, self-isolating for days and weeks with family and close friends gives us plenty of opportunities to practice this skill on the same old issues, too!
How can you possibly do it? Many of the lessons leading up to this one have made suggestions that can make letting go easier.
- Disconnect from media—at least the constant stream most of us have available to us. Less negativity in, less to combat.
- Replace a negative thought with a positive one. Be prepared. Quote scripture, recite a list of God’s virtues or promises, substitute a happy memory. It’s impossible to have two thoughts at the same time, so have a good substitution ready.
- Follow the Phil 4:6-8 model: Pray and let go of the need to control. Practice Gratitude. Focus on the good stuff. In case you didn’t recognize him in verse 8, that’s a pretty good description of Jesus—always a good place to put your attention!
These are just a few suggestions. Look back through the other posts in this series or through Newberry’s book for more. The author says catching negativity in its early stages keeps us in a resourceful state of mind which gives us the best shot at effective problem-solving, dealing with stress, overcoming challenges, and generating more joy. For today’s exercise he offers you the chance to make a firm decision to remain positive by examining the pros and cons of keeping or dropping negative thoughts and then indicating whether you think they should stay or go.
What benefits do you see to breaking the link to negative thoughts?