I don't know what I'm supposed to do with my life - and I'm running out of time to figure it out. What if I never find it? Will I always be unhappy and unfulfilled? Will I never achieve my purpose? What will God do about that - will He call me a bad servant? But I can't help it. Why doesn't He answer my prayers for direction?
Maybe I'm just too sinful or something. I know I should read the Bible more. Is this limbo I'm in some kind of punishment for that? Am I really so much worse than everybody else? Maybe I just don't have any special gifts or talents. Or they just never got developed. Maybe that's it, and maybe now it's too late. So what do I do now? I don't know what I'm supposed to do …
Does this resemble your thinking sometimes? Perhaps not about your calling, but about finding a spouse, or affording a house, or exercising regularly, or a conflict with your mother or boss. Do you tend to overthink things? To worry and ruminate? To endlessly, passively, excessively ponder the meanings, causes and potential consequences of your problems? Do you dwell on them?
Many of us believe that when we feel down about something we should try to evaluate our feelings and our situation from every angle to attain insight and find solutions to relieve our unhappiness. However, a host of research in the last 20 years has shown that dwelling on thoughts like this creates negative outcomes: it sustains or worsens sadness, fosters negative thinking, depletes motivation, saps energy, interferes with concentration, and typically impairs our problem-solving.
Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky writes: "Although people have a strong sense that they are gaining insight into themselves and their problems during their ruminations, this is rarely the case. What they do gain is a distorted, pessimistic perspective on their lives." She adds, "You need to free yourself from the clutch of your ruminations - in other words, immediately stop overthinking."
Based on what he wrote in Philippians 4:6-13, I think the apostle Paul would agree with the professor. Pause and scroll down to read the whole passage now in the "Power Verses" below and then come back.
As we see, in verse six, Paul gives three clear instructions for those of us who ruminate on our problems. He says:
1) do not worry about anything
2) pray about everything
3) thank God for everything
What if today we took this instruction to heart and put it into practice? What if today we decided not to worry about anything? What if when we found ourselves worrying, we stopped and handed the situation over to God in prayer? What if we then thanked Him for taking care of the issue?
In fact, what if we spent most of our mental free-time today thinking about what good care our awesome God takes of us?
What if we counted our blessings and God's acts of faithfulness today - and again tomorrow and next week too? What would happen then?
Paul says in verse seven, we will begin to experience amazing peace - a kind of peace we can't even imagine. Peace that makes no earthly sense! This kind of peace is so powerful that it has a protective function on our hearts and minds - which only makes it easier for us to stop worrying and be thankful.
That sounds like a state of happiness to me! So let's not over-think it today. Let's not under-pray it either. Let's actively choose to have a happy, thankful day. And then let's get up tomorrow and do it again.
Dear Lord, I'm turning over all my fears and problems to You to handle today. I can't fix a single thing by worrying about it - but You can fix anything because nothing is impossible for You! Thanks for being in charge of my day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
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Open your Bible and highlight Philippians 4:6-7. Memorize those two verses.
Do I generally think about what is good, lovely, pure and right -or do I think about what is flawed, frustrating, unfair and wrong?
Day-to-day do I tend to over-think and under-pray? How often do I express gratefulness?
Philippians 4:6-9, "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. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you." (NLT)
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