Sunday, September 11, 2016

Calling Good Things to Mind

Dear Friends,
Have you ever felt that all your hopes and dreams lie under the rubble of a divorce, job loss, or child problems?  Perhaps it is your faith that lies in ruins, and you feel betrayed by the very God who promised you so much, a betrayal much like what Jeremiah felt: “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord” (Lam. 3:18).  Jeremiah felt that God had let him down—badly.  All his hopes and dreams—personal hopes, political hopes, prophetic hopes—lay buried under the rubble that had been the holy city of Jerusalem.
Stuart and I had given up our careers to cast our lot with a work among teenagers.  After we arrived at a Christian youth center, things did not turn out quite the way I expected.  I felt betrayed.  I felt that God was unfair and unjust.  All I had hoped from the Lord was gone. 
But this was most unfair and unjust of me.  We had mistaken the job description we had been given.  It was no one’s fault, certainly not God’s!  Once I began to unmix God and life, this period of our lives became the perfect opportunity to develop our faith. 
The first step to renewing your faith at the low points of your life is to recognize the symptoms of faith distress.  The second step is to take charge of your spiritual life and realize that the conditions you are living in are ideal for God to develop your faith. 
This process has two sides to it.  I am responsible for “mind work,” and God is responsible for “heart work.”  Listen to Jeremiah as he does his mind work, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (Lam. 3:19-21).  How do we do this mind work?  By taking responsibility for what we “call to mind.”
I can remember discovering this principle early in my Christian faith.  The truth that I could do something about my thinking was a huge step in my own faith development.  I did not need to be a victim of my own negative thinking or of the thoughts that the devil planted in my fertile imaginings.  I could take charge of my own thought patterns. 
My part was to select the right channel and choose the right tape.  I could truly be selective in what I drew out of my memory bank.  I could constantly call bad memories to mind, and the result would be despondency.  Or I could call good things to mind, and the result would be renewed faith and hope. 
There is a good example of this in Lam. 3:52-54, “Those who were my enemies without cause hunted me like a bird.  They tried to end my life in a pit and threw stones at me; the waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to be cut off.”  Notice how Jeremiah corrals his thoughts.  Instead of dwelling, he “calls to mind” his desperate cry for help and here’s what happened next: “I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.’ You came near when I called you, and you said ‘Do not fear.’ O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life” (vv. 55-58).
When you are in the pit with people throwing stones at you, don’t think about the stones; think about how God will help you out of it by remembering how He has helped you in the past!  When I am in a pit, I have learned to use my mind to remember an answered prayer.  This is the one reason I keep a prayer diary, because in the heat of the moment I don’t always have a good memory.  It is good to have recorded incidents in my life when God has answered specific prayers for my children.  When they are in urgent need of prayer again, it helps to be reminded of answered prayer.  That gives me hope to pray, “Do it again, Lord!”
After you have thought about how God has helped you in trouble, don’t stop.  It’s tempting to start thinking about the trouble again.  Think about God.  Think about His character.  That’s what Jeremiah did.  “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).      
God is a consuming fire, but because of His love He will not consume us.  God is a forgiving God, full of mercy and grace.  This will never change!  People will change, circumstances will change, but God will never change!  He is faithful to us even when we are not faithful to Him.  Practicing remembering these positive things about the Lord will start to develop our faith muscles, using our mind to let the Lord work in our hearts.

Jill Briscoe 
Executive Editor 
Just Between Us Magazine  

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