Do you find it hard to take control of your thought life? Are you often besieged with negative thoughts, or find yourself constantly battling fears?
Paul wrote to the Philippians church, saying, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8-9). Sounds great, doesn’t it? But where do we even start?
Here are five quick pointers that can help us refocus our thought lives:
1. Purge the Bad Stuff
First things first. Is there anything we need to purge? Are there any TV shows, movies, songs, or novels that are drawing us into sinful thinking? While there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying these things, let’s heed Paul’s warning, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23).
We are easily tempted into envy, lust, comparison or even addiction. Is there something in your life right now that takes advantage of that weakness? If so, take a break from it. Not watching the next episode or missing the season finale of a TV show will not kill you. Instead, we can give that time to God and ask Him to work in our hearts.
2. Fill Up on What Is Beautiful
Once we’ve purged the bad stuff, it’s time to find something else to fill our time and our thoughts. We can look for things which are beautiful, which speak to our emotions and imaginations in meaningful ways. The very act of wonder and inspiration is a gift from God. He is the first creator of beauty (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
3. Fill Up on What Is True
Just as our imaginations and emotions need to be filled with good art, our intellect needs to engage with knowledge and truth. We can do this by learning more about the world around us, as well as the One who created it all.
Have you ever wondered how heavy a cloud might be? Did you know that the moon completes a full rotation on its axis at exactly the same speed that it completes a rotation around the earth? That means we only ever see the same side of the moon from earth. Did you ever realize that peanut flowers blossom above ground, but the nuts grow in the dirt? There are so many tiny, unthinkable details God has put into place!
This world reveals God’s splendid handiwork (Psalm 19), and exercising our intellect and learning more about our world can lead us to a deepening awe of the Creator.
4. Fill Up on What Is Good
More important than feeding our imaginations and our intellect, we need to focus on our spiritual needs. In refocusing our thought life, what can be more important than turning our focus back to our relationship with God?
The best place to start is by simply reading the Bible, and seeking to understand it. That will really help us focus on who God is. Can you write out a list of His attributes? God is loving (1 John 4:8), always present (Hebrews 13:5-6), knows all things (Psalm 139:2), always in control (Matthew 10:29-31) . . . What else can you think of?
Now take a good look at that list, and ask yourself, how has God’s nature been apparent in your life recently? How has He shown His presence in your circumstances? In what ways has He reminded you of His love? Once we really start looking, we will be sure to find God’s fingerprints all over our lives.
5. Fill up on good conversations
Finally, one great way to refocus our thought life is to get in some great conversations with brothers and sisters in Christ. To jumpstart conversations, try asking questions such as, “What has God been doing in your life lately?” or, “What have you been learning in your Bible reading recently?” It’s exciting seeing how other people are connecting with God, and often, this inspires us in our own relationship with God as well.
Surely, hearing about God has been at work in the life of our friends is more interesting than debating over the fate of fictional characters or indulging in idle talk? So, even in the small details of our days, let’s make a point to dwell on things which are excellent!