January 10, 2008

Hope in the Midst of Depression

Mary Southerland

 

 

 

Today’s truth

Philippians 4:8 (NIVB) Finally, brothers, 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.

Friend to Friend

In 1995, I found myself sitting at the bottom of a dark pit, desperate for God, pleading for deliverance. After two long, hard years of painful emotional work, fierce spiritual warfare and complete brokenness, I finally stepped into the light. One of the most important truths God gave me in the darkness is that we can change the way we live by changing the way we think. Over the last few days, we have talked about:


Step one: Recognize the power of thoughts.

Step two: Know God's standard for our thought life.

 

·         First standard: true thoughts

·         Second standard: noble thoughts

·         Third standard: right thoughts

·         Fourth standard: pure thoughts

Fifth standard: lovely thoughts

“Lovely” literally means “beautiful or attractive” or “that which calls forth love”. The way we live is largely determined by the “setting” of our minds, a setting we must deliberately choose every day. Minds set on unlovely thoughts such as revenge, anger or criticism will produce lives that are magnets for more bitterness and resentment. The result of this deadly cycle is often darkness and depression.

 

The only way to reprogram our thoughts is by changing the setting of our mind. Colossians 3:2 (NIV) tells us to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.” This same verse in the New Living Bible is translated “let heaven fill your thoughts”. I love that perspective! When “heaven” fills our thoughts, when our gaze is on God and our glance on our circumstances, our mind will naturally be filled with Him and His peace. By choosing the setting of our mind before we encounter a crisis or trial, we are more likely to walk through that crisis in victory instead of defeat. Dark thoughts find it hard to dwell in a mind set on light.

 

Have you noticed that the world in which we live is forever in search of beauty? When I took our daughter to the orthodontist, I had to wait while the hygienist cleaned her teeth. A stack of magazines caught my attention. As I mindlessly flipped through the pages, I suddenly realized how many of those pages offered products promising to erase every line on my face, take away my appetite until I become a size “nothing” and make every slightly yellowed tooth in my head a dazzling white that stops people in their tracks. Right! Yet, I found myself digging an old grocery receipt out of my purse to copy down brand names and phone numbers where I could purchase these “miracle” products. Been there? You are definitely not alone! According to one survey, every year, in the United States, we collectively buy each minute:

 

·         1,484 tubes of lipstick (at a cost of $4,566)

·         913 bottles of nail polish ($2,055)

·         1,324 mascaras, eye shadows, and eyeliners ($6,849)

·         2,055 jars of skin care products ($12,785)

That's $1,581,300 an hour, all in the wasted pursuit of genuine beauty, which is from within and grows from a thought life that is lovely, a thought life that is right!

 

Step three: Choose to practice right thinking!

 

Philippians 4: 8b-9 “If anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

 

The apostle Paul describes the standard God has set for our thought life as “excellent” and “praiseworthy” which literally means, “worth commending to others”. Don’t miss this truth! Our thought life should be a model and a pattern that others can follow! God is challenging us to “raise the bar” in our thinking, refusing to allow the “low things” of this world to inhabit our minds. We need to be relentless in directing our thoughts in the paths of excellence! We cannot separate our inner thoughts from our outward actions. We will live out our thought life.

 

The first and greatest commandment is to love God with our mind - not a part of our mind, not most of our mind, but with our whole mind…and to do so requires our obedience to the standard that God has given. Knowledge is never enough. God is not pleased with our knowledge of the truth if it doesn’t result in the practice of that truth lived out in daily life. When we are confronted with the truth, we need to hear it, receive it, learn it and then put it into practice! We need to employ these standards as the referees over every thought.

 

When our children were young, Dan coached a soccer team on which our kids played. We quickly learned which referees were good. Some referees just showed up for the game. They did not take charge or make calls until the game was out of control and I was forced to step in and help! (My kids hated that!) However, when one referee walked onto the field, there was no doubt about who was in charge! He was tough and called everything! The kids sometimes complained about his firm handling of the game, but they were also glad to see him because of the sense of security and peace he brought to the field. Everyone knew his motto: “I don’t allow any junk!”

 

That is exactly what God’s standard for our thought life will do … if we choose to practice it. God’s standard will make the right calls. It will toss out the “junk” and bring a security and peace to our lives. A powerful deterrent of depression is a thought life fully surrendered to and controlled by God.

 

My father-in-law collects antique irons. I have been with him at flea markets and garage sales as he carefully examines each iron before buying it. These irons are usually very rusty, sometimes covered in dirt and extremely old. To be perfectly honest, they all look the same to me - worthless. I finally asked him, “Dad, how do you tell if an iron is any good.” His answer held great wisdom, “I have learned that the iron is only as good as its handle. If the handle is solid, then the iron is valuable.”

 

The “handle” for your thought life is a willingness to recognize the power of your thoughts, a commitment to God’s standard concerning the mind and a choice to practice right thinking. Darkness cannot stand against the power of a thought life totally surrendered to the power of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

Let’s pray

Father, I am sorry for allowing my mind to dwell on unworthy things. Please strengthen me to set my mind on You and recognize anyone or anything that threatens to change that setting. I long to experience the power of a mind set on You. I surrender my thought life to You and choose to guard that setting. Thank You, Lord, that You are a God of new beginnings.

In Jesus’ name

Amen

 

Now it’s Your Turn

What first step do you need to take in order to think right and to live right?

 

Pray about and then enlist an accountability partner as you make a new commitment to God’s standard for your thought life.

 

Take an inventory of your beauty products. Calculate how much you have spent on cosmetics and skin care in the last month. How does that cost compare to the time and effort you have spent on pursuing the inner beauty that can only come from God?

 

How’s your thought life? Using Philippians 4:8 as your standard, take a minute to evaluate your thoughts.

 

_______ true

_______ noble

_______ right

_______ pure

_______ lovely

_______ admirable

_______ excellent

_______ praiseworthy

 

More from the Girls

Have you noticed that some people exude beauty…no matter what their physical attributes may be? Their beauty is from within and radiates a thought life that is on the right “setting”. I know that there are unseen stressors in your life that others can neither see nor understand - but God does! We began this series talking about Mary Winkler, the pastor’s wife in Tennessee accused of murdering her husband. I pray that the Father does a fresh work of healing in the life of Mary Winkler. I also pray that He does the same for you and for me. Join me in a new commitment to guard the setting of my mind and to “let Heaven fill” my thoughts. Amen.

 

 

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