I'm sitting in the bus on my way to church, reading "Crash the Chatterbox" by Steven Furtick (amazing book btw). I'm so focused on the book and what I'm reading that I'm not really paying attention to anything else. The bus starts to get full, and as I'm sitting on an outside seat, I move in to make space for someone to sit next to me. As I'm doing this, my mind wanders away from the book I'm reading. I suddenly realise that there's a guy behind me talking on the phone. I realise that he has actually been there the whole time talking. I heard him subconsciously but I wasn't paying attention before. Now I am, and his voice becomes much louder to me and I can hear everything he's saying (well he's speaking a foreign language, but you get what I mean). Now that I'm focusing on his voice, it's suddenly louder and more profound. It's now all I hear. I'm no longer concentrating on my book, but on this man's voice.
I'm sure by now you have an idea of where I'm going with this. It's a message that's preached a lot, but I honestly think we can never hear it enough. Whatever we choose to focus on, is what will be the loudest in our heads. Whatever we magnify, we get more of.
And this doesn't mean that you should ignore your problems and act like they don't exist. Address every problem head-on and take everything to God in prayer. But don't dwell on the issues.
A lot has been happening in my life lately, and it's definitely been a struggle. I've done all I can do from my end, and I persistently take it to God in prayer. All that's left for me to do is to trust him and wait. But I'd be lying if I said I had this whole trust thing sorted out. Sometimes I find myself focusing on the problems. And the more I focus on them, the larger they appear to be. I literally notice my problems get bigger in my head as I dwell on them. Then the “what-ifs” start to come up.
"What if things never get better?
What if I have to accept things the way they are?"
Let's not forget the “if-onlys”.
"If only I did things this way, I wouldn't be in the situation I'm in right now."
Then I decided one day that I'm done. Done worrying, done self-sabotaging, done dwelling on the problems. I'm choosing to focus on the good in my life. Which is why I started doing the 30 days gratitude challenge on my Instagram. It's only been 14 days, but focusing on the good has changed my mood a LOT. I'm much more grateful, I'm more secure in who Christ says I am, I'm happier. It's still a battle to focus on the good, and it's something I definitely have to be intentional about, but it's definitely not impossible and I know that no matter what, God is on my side.
I honestly encourage everyone to write down everyday, one thing they're grateful for. Even if it’s something that seems so simple (“seems” being the operative word), such as being alive. It’s a whole lot to be thankful for. Think about it like this, you wouldn’t be alive if God didn’t have plans for you. And if God has plans for you, your life will get better because all God’s plans are good (Jeremiah 29:11). But let’s not wait and focus on our lives getting better. We can be hopeful for the future, but let’s live in the NOW. Let’s focus on what we have now.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
- Philippians 4:8 NLT
John Piper defines joy as “a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world”. Christ’s beauty is in everything, even the sorrow and struggle. To be able to focus on Him and His glory is not something we can do on our own, but something the Holy Spirit can help us with. Here are some practical tips I have to help with focusing on the positive and getting through what you’re going through:
Do. Not. Under. Estimate. The. Power. Of. Prayer.
“…The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
- James 5:16b
God hears you. God sees you. God cares for you. God loves you. God is working for you. Remember that God is near the broken-hearted (Psalms 34:18). Someone said something that I love so much, “crying is also a prayer.” This is so true. A few weeks ago as I was coming back from church, I was literally fighting back tears. Once I got to my room, I dropped to the floor and cried my eyes out to God. I cried and cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. I couldn’t even say anything, words couldn’t come out of my mouth. But God knew. I could feel him right there with me, comforting me.
“Cast all your cares, all your worries, all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7
Whether it’s with or without music, using your voice to sing out to God helps so much. You are reminded of God’s goodness, his faithfulness, his grace. You are reminded of his sovereignty, and how nothing happens without him knowing. You are reminded of how small you are and how big God is. You are reminded of how there’s nothing too much for him to handle.
A problem shared is a problem half-solved. Don’t suffer in silence. Even after you’ve prayed and worshipped, talk to someone. I don’t believe God was talking about just marriage when he said it isn’t good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). But don’t share your problems with just anyone. Talk to someone who you know will speak life into you. Someone that will pray with you, and for you. Someone whose opinions you trust.
4. The Word of God (the Bible).
The best way to hear God speak is through his word. Firstly, you know that the bible doesn’t tell lies. You know it’s not just your flesh, or the enemy, speaking to you. There is honestly scripture for every single situation you are in. It may not be so explicitly stated, but it’s there if you look and ask God to reveal it to you.
5. Write down what you’re grateful for.
I already mentioned how I’ve been posting on my Instagram things I’m grateful for. You don’t have to do that, but do write it down. Writing things down makes you think, and as you’re taking note of your blessings, more start to pop into your head that you didn’t think of before. It’s a great way to focus on the positive.
6. Write down the lies that the enemy is telling you, and counter those lies with the Word.
I’ve done this once, and it honestly helped so much. What I did was write in my journal a list of all my fears. Things that I’m afraid of, things that are happening, and things that I’ve allowed myself to believe about who I am. When I was done, for each negative thing I wrote down, I found a bible verse that told me otherwise. I found scripture that countered my feelings, and reassured me that God sees things and works things out differently. Even if I may not be able to see a way out of my situation, He does. His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).
I hope you were blessed reading this as much as I was blessed writing it.
Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless - like chasing the wind.
- Ecclesiastes 6:9 NLT