A young black man places a hand on his face as he receives disappointing news from his cell phone.

You probably know this, but in case you don’t, I am so thrilled to give you the good news, you select your thoughts.

You didn’t select your birthplace or birthdate. You didn’t select your parents or siblings. You don’t determine the weather or the amount of salt in the ocean. There are many things in life over which you have no choice. But the greatest activity of life is well within your dominion. You choose what you think.

You are the air traffic controller of your mental airport. You occupy the control tower, directing the mental traffic of your world. If a thought lands, it is because you gave it permission. If it leaves, it is because you commanded it to do so. You select your thoughts.

For that reason, the wise man urges: “Be careful what you think because your thoughts run your life” (Proverbs 4:23). Do you want to be happy tomorrow? Then sow seeds of happiness today. Do you want to guarantee tomorrow’s misery? Then wallow in a mental mud pit of self-pity or guilt or anxiety today. Thoughts have consequences.

Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge. Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it. You can’t always control your circumstances, but you can control the way you process them. We are the sum of our thoughts.

Here is how it works. You receive a call from the doctor’s office. The message is simple and unwelcome. “The doctor has reviewed your tests and would like you to come into the office for a consultation.”

As quickly as you can say “uh-oh,” you have a choice: anxiety or trust.

Anxiety says “These things never turn out right for me. My family has a history of tragedy. It’s my turn. I probably have cancer, arthritis, jaundice. Am I going blind? My eyes have been blurry lately. Is this a brain tumor?”

“Who will raise the kids? Who will pay the medical bills? I’m going to die, broke and lonely. I’m too young for this tragedy! No one can understand me or help me!”

If this person isn’t sick, they will be by the time they go to the doctor’s office. “Anxiety weighs down the human heart” (Proverbs 12:25 NRSV).

But there is a better way.   You “… capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5 NCV). You slap handcuffs on the culprit and march it before the One who has all authority: Jesus Christ. You’re praying before you hang up the phone.

“Jesus, this anxiety just wormed its way into my mind. Is it from you?”

Jesus, who can always be counted on to speak the truth says: “No, get away from here Satan.” And you, as the discerning, sober-minded air traffic controller of your mind, refuse to let the thought have the time of day. Before you call your mom, spouse, neighbor or friend, you call on God. You invite him to speak into the problem.

You lay claim to every biblical promise you can remember and set out to learn a few more. You take up the Scripture, “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). You pray the promises of the Covenant-keeper. “I will wait on the Lord. I will be of good courage. You will strengthen my heart” (Psalms 27:14). You declare: You are with me. You will never leave me or forsake me. All my days were in your hand before one of them came to be. All things work together for good. You give Satan no quarter. You give his lies no welcome.

You “…fasten the belt of truth around your waist” (Ephesians 6:14 NRSV). You resist the urge to exaggerate, overstate or amplify. You focus on the facts; nothing more. The fact is, the doctor has called. The fact is, he may have good news or bad. For all you know, he may want you to be a poster child of good health. All you can do is pray and trust.

So, you do. You enter the doctor’s office, not weighed down with anxiety, but buoyed by faith.

Which do you prefer?

You want to be free from anxiety? God wants you to be free even more. And he will help you get there.

©Max Lucado, June 2016

25 comments on “Your Problem Isn’t Your Problem

  1. And finally be anxious for nothing……nothing covers it all…thank you for this was mean’t for me with bad news rom stress test….

  2. Every single day there are random thoughts that cross my mind and I have to ask God to forgive me. I need to save this post. Thank you Pastor Max!

  3. I am so very grateful to God for letting me get it. Every morning I wake up with crazy thoughts and I choose to read the notes in my bathroom that I have posted about the One who gives me strength, the One who hears my cry. I remember the songs of Praise and Love I have heard on the radio. This Mercy is why I know for sure, HE LOVES ME! The Love of the only Father I have ever known. Thank you God.

  4. Thank you so much!
    I needed reminding.
    You are one of my most favourite authors!
    May God bless you!

  5. Thank you…… for the Biblical principles you write for us. Anxiety has been my burden more often than I care to admit. As I grow older, the less anxiety I have. I thank the Good Lord for placing my husband by my side, because he always says ” and what are you gonna do about that?” I pray.

  6. I do not believe we have total control over our thoughts. My thoughts have cleared tremendously after getting out of a 25 year abusive marriage. I was raised in a abusive family where our nickname was son of bitch
    Many factors can cause an imbalance in the brain and my thoughts have improved with medication I do believe we have control.over what we do with the thoughts. I believe in Jesus Christ and his love is what has kept me alive. I am thankful we were given the ability to filter thoughts with our brain.

    1. God has more power than any thought, I know I can do all things through Christ he is strength to over come in our journey of life . We do have to work out our own salvation through choosing his will the sword of the spirit is power to overcome. Take every thought captive to the words of grace

  7. I am so glad I read this devo today. I needed to be reminded of this choice I have, I don’t need to be hogtied by anxiety and weakness. Thank you for your wisdom.

  8. We never give up because our God is more powerful than anything else. I trust on him everyday his promise that never leave us alone.

  9. I really needed to read this today. Now I’m laying my thoughts before Christ. He knows best.
    Thank you, Max.

  10. I have been trying to submit all my thoughts captive to Father God, this has been helpful, thank you. I knew your page would be a blessing!

  11. I have so much anxiety I can hardly deal with it and I cry every day. I’m so sad all the time. I try to get my mind to slow down, but it’s like a gerbil on a wheel. I take medicine for depression, doesn’t seem to help. Dr. has changed it many times. I’m 71 and I have no joy. I’ve asked God to send a friend, I’ve tried on my own and nothing seems to help. I know God doesn’t want me to live a sad life. I’ve read many articles on this they all say the same thing and what the bible says about it. My know my out look is negative . I’ve prayed so many times and nothing happens. I feel like my life is over and I’m scared. Sometimes I wonder if God is really there.. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t cry. I can hardly stand myself.

    1. Dear Carol, Your courage to post this means you have people praying for you right now. In all your heartache and struggle, may I suggest you be even braver, and shift your focus slightly? Pray right now to praise God. Praise Him for his never ending love, for the food He provides, for the fresh air you breathe. Praise Him for every little thing you can think of. When we are at our lowest, God performs at his best. May He bless you now and bring you His peace.
      With love from a fellow-heir in Christ. Cass

    2. While I agree that we have a choice about what we do with our thoughts in many situations and worrying about things we have no control of is never helpful, I also think we need to remember that for many people anxiety is mental illness, and like any illness its not a choice. It has many causes and different approaches work for different people some people need medication some need therapy to help them deal with their anxiety but in no case is this a reflection of someone’s lack of faith or trust in God. Actually for many Christians with mental health problems it’s their faith that keeps them going when the world feels very scary and dark so please don’t ever tell someone suffering from anxiety that they just need to have more faith or trust in God or that they need to pray more.

    3. God bless you Carol. I share many of these issues with you. For me only developing my relationship with Christ has helped. It’s the difference between knowing about someone or actually knowing them personally. The closer I get to Him, the more my troubles fall away. I encourage you to dwell on God’s promises, stay close to him in prayer and praise, and not be so hard on yourself. God has a way for you, He has a plan for you, and He is there for you. Understand that this is a spiritual battle requiring spiritual weapons and armor as Scripture teaches. God will bring you through. Don’t be like Peter and look at the storm and start to sink. Take His hand, cozy up to Him, and rest in his shadow. Keep your eyes on the Lord and not the storm. God bless.

    4. Carol, I am praying for you today that God takes hold of you and brings you to joy. I pray that the angel of the Lord encamps around you and protects your mind from the evil one who is stealing your joy. Carol, I am your friend, and I will continue to pray for you.

  12. Anxiety is my biggest foe. I need to recognize who is feeding me the lies that cause the anxiety, and claim my victory through Christ who is my Lord & Saviour. Thank you, Max. God speaks to me through you and His Word. Praise God!

  13. Anxiety has been a major problem for most of my life. I worry about things that don’t often happen. Thank you so much for reminding me that it is HE who guides my life. My blessings sent to you.

  14. Carol, I just read this now, months later. I hope that you have found some measure of peace. You certainly deserve to be happy and mindfulness, as Max suggested, can be the difference. It is a challenge to learn to control which thoughts you dwell on. The best way I know how to do this is with mindfulness meditation. You can find instructions on-line. When you start with mindfulness it seems impossible because so many thoughts rush in, but just a few minutes a day of meditation can make a huge difference. During meditation we learn that our brain just generates random thoughts. some of them are true, some of them not. With mindfulness we learn that we really can ignore many of the most destructive thoughts and help direct our brains to better things. Certainly you should keep working with a medical professional when you feel so terrible, but mindfulness can be a powerful addition to that treatment. I wish you the best.

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