Your Problem Isn’t Your Problem

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