Throughout 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, the message from Tom Newberry has been that everything starts with your thoughts. To clarify, he states, “Because of thinking, we feel certain emotions. As a result of these feelings, we engage in certain behaviors. And these behaviors accumulate and produce the conditions of our lives.”
This philosophy seemed reasonable when I started this study back in February. There was a rumble on the horizon about a terrible new virus that was in China and Italy and–I don’t remember where. It seems so long ago. It was all just far away and, surely, like all those other threatened pandemics, it would stop before it got “here.” “Here” being wherever I am. Wherever you are. But this one was different. It is most definitely here.
When the world is suddenly and devastatingly changed from anything you knew before, does it even make sense to be on a quest for more joy?
It does if you define joy as pastor and author Rick Warren does, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” So, back to Newberry’s point, if you think that God has your ultimate good in mind and that he can provide and protect during these uncertain times, you will feel more at peace. When you feel loved and cared for by your Creator, you can share your finances, energy, and love with those who need those things because you are confident there will somehow be enough. These actions create a better world for everyone in your sphere of influence. Less joy is panic, hoarding, making sure that you get yours. These behaviors lead to a deteriorating condition.
Seeking joy in times like these requires mental discipline. Newberry says this is “the learned skill of keeping your mind centered on productive thoughts, even when turbulent, distracting thoughts are swirling around you.” That pretty much nails it!
He gives four components of mental discipline:
Clarity. What do you want to accomplish now and in the future? Your “now” goal may be to keep the bills paid while you are on unemployment, but don’t lose sight of the future goal to be out of debt and more able to weather the next financial storm.
Concentration. Stay engaged in the present moment. In this situation it’s not helpful to be critical about what was or wasn’t done that led to the crisis. Even less so to paint ugly scenarios about the future. Stay focused on now. What can you do today to bring about your present and future goals?
Confidence. Newberry stresses confidence in yourself, but I suggest we put our confidence in God. Philippians 4:13 (AMP) puts this God vs self-confidence conundrum in perspective when the Apostle Paul says:
“I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]”
Challenge. Expect big things! Newberry encourages us to, “Seek opportunities that require loads of mental discipline and you’ll be surprised at the treasure you find.” Good news! We don’t have to go out looking for such an opportunity, it has presented itself at our doorstep! Image the best outcome possible because our God says that he can do more than we can think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)!
It starts with knowing what you want. This current situation is a giant curveball for sure, but most likely what you want for yourself, your family, the world, hasn’t changed. How could mental discipline bring you through this crisis closer to those goals?