How To Deal With Anxious Thoughts

“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” whined Martha, who was trying to be the perfect hostess to Jesus’ while He was visiting her house. (Luke 10:38-42) 

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Martha felt frazzled because her thoughts were centered on her discouraging circumstances, rather than on what the Lord would have her focus her thoughts on. Philippians 4:8 lays out exactly what the Lord wants us to center our thoughts on.

 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. (Phil. 4:8)

As trials come up, take every thought captive, running your thoughts through Philippians 4:8 God’s standard for our thought life. Ask yourself about what you’re thinking:

Is it true?

Is it noble?

Is it right?

Is it pure?

Is it lovely?

Is it admirable?

Is it excellent?

Is it praiseworthy?

As we are faithful to take each thought captive and run it through these questions, we will think less Martha-like thoughts—thoughts of frustration and discouragement—and think more thoughts that produce joy and peace in our life. And we can always use more joy in and peace in our life right?

Now you might be dwelling on something hurtful someone did to you because it is true “whatever is true…” Philippians 4:8 However tempting it may be to stop there, God wants our thoughts to fit all these criteria. If something is true, but not praiseworthy, God doesn’t want us to dwell on it. It is one thing to think about something discouraging when we are faced with it, like a huge, unexpected bill that comes in the mail. We can’t just ignore it because it isn’t lovely, excellent, or praiseworthy. God isn’t saying that. What He doesn’t want us to do is to dwell on it. If we are going to park our mind on a thought, God says that thought should be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

So what can we think on, and think about, that fits all these criteria of Philippians 4:8? The answer: God and His Word.

This is what God wants us to fill our minds with and to dwell on. So when a trial comes up, instead of dwelling on the problem as Martha did when her sister was sitting at the feet of Jesus instead of helping, we can instead set our minds on Jesus and His Word as Mary made it a priority to do. Are you facing something big? Are you discouraged? Overwhelmed? Frustrated? Set your mind upon God’s faithfulness in your life, on His character, His goodness, His promises to you and as you do, your faith will be strengthened. and your concerns will be shrink in light of our God who is mighty to save. 

In Chuck Smith’s excellent book on prayer, Effective Prayer Life, he encourages readers to begin prayer by worshiping God. For example, starting prayer praising God for He is a great God, nothing is too hard for Him, by His breath He brought the heavens and the earth into existence, etc. I love this because, when I start praying this way, by the time I get to bringing my problems before God, they don’t seem to be that much of a problem anymore. It is when I just launch into prayer with my troubles,  that my problems seem overwhelming to me. But when I set my mind first on God’s greatness, as I bring my problems before God, I feel a peace and hope that I otherwise would have not experienced had I just launched into my problems from the start.


So what we set our minds on is important. It makes all the difference, just as we saw in a frazzled Martha and a peace-filled Mary. (Luke 10:38-42) May we be diligent to set our minds on the Lord and His Word, and, as a result, experience God’s perfect peace regardless of our circumstances. (Isaiah 26:3)
 

Questions for you: How do you deal with anxious thoughts? What have you found to be a help in lining up your thoughts with God’s standard in Philippians 4:8? Let me know in the comments below.


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Copyright © 2013 Brooke Espinoza.

24 comments:

  1. Brooke, thank you for this post, I am so pleased I am going through the links on Women Living Well, they are speaking to me tonight. Have a blessed day. Tara.

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    1. Thanks, Tara! I love how God uses others to bless and equip us. He is so good! God bless you richly!

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  2. This post speaks directly to my heart. Focusing Upward toward God instead of Inward on ourselves or our own situations really is the heart of my blog. It's so easy to get caught up in the worries of today or tomorrow, the chaos that surrounds us, and the responsibilities of each day, that we miss the bigger picture. It's like being on the top of a mountain looking down... does all that small stuff matter? Up here with God, that's where I wanna be. That's where I wanna stay. Keeping our thought life focused on what is pleasing to God is a discipline for sure... but the reward... nothing else comes close. :)

    Thanks for linking up at Into the Word Wednesday.

    Falen
    www.UpwardNotInward.com

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    1. Thanks, Falen! Yes, it totally fits with what your blog is all about. Love it! I really liked your mountaintop illustration. So true. And yes, the reward for living a life of obedience to the Lord doesn't even compare to the small sacrifices we make to choose God's will over our own. Eternity in heaven is going to be mind-blowing awesome! Thanks for sharing! God bless you abundantly!

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  3. Thank you for this post. You have reminded me of some of my favorite scriptures in dealing with thoughts (which will turn into sinful actions if our thoughts aren't taken captive.)

    I linked up beside you on Wifey Wednesday. Hope your day is blessed.

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    1. Thanks, Judith! So glad this blessed you! God bless you mightily!

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  4. Hummmmm..... I never thought of Martha as whining at all. I thought of her as hard working, a servant of God. Mary normally would have been helping her but she needed something more from Jesus at that moment. I've often thought this is another of those scriptures that is often interpreted wrong. I don't think Jesus was angry at Martha, just teaching them both to put God first and the rest will fall into place. I believe Jesus completely comforted Martha and gave her assurance. Martha was an excellent hostess.

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    1. Kathleen, I totally agree, Martha was a "hard working, servant of God." Martha's determination to be the perfect hostess to Jesus and His disciples is admirable. Her heart was totally in the right place. She wanted to make everything as wonderful as possible for Jesus' visit. And who wouldn't? I know I'd be scurrying around trying to make everything perfect for his arrival. I'm sure Mary wanted everything perfect for Jesus as much as Martha did. Luke 10:39 notes about Mary, "And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word." That one word "also" which some translations like the NIV omit, shows that Mary did not only sit at Jesus' feet, but she was doing other things and also sat at Jesus' feet. I believe those other things was helping her sister Martha get ready for Jesus' arrival, because I'm sure Mary was as excited about Jesus' arrival as her sister Martha. However, when Jesus arrived I believe Mary dropped what she was doing to help Martha and turned her focus on Jesus, sitting at His feet--which left Martha feeling like everything was dumped on her shoulders, prompting her to complain to Jesus. I totaly agree with you that Jesus was not angry with Martha. Other than the time Jesus overturned the merchants tables in the temple, I can't think of any other time in Scripture that Jesus was angry. Like you said, He was "just teaching them both to put God first and the rest will fall into place." Yes, I agree, "I believe Jesus completely comforted Martha and gave her assurance." and I believe this too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! God bless you richly!

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  5. We've been writing and experimenting every Wednesday with the best way to focus our thoughts on things in that verse you mentioned, all those noble and pure and holy things. It's a huge challenge. But I think you are exactly right. When we keep our mind consistently in the right place, we are able to overcome our day to day anxieties and moments of being frazzled!

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    1. Thanks, Helene! That is so neat to hear! God bless you lots!

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  6. Very well said. I have been sharing this scripture from Philippians with my children recently. You've summed it all up very nicely.
    (stopping by via A Mama's Story)

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    1. Thanks! That is so great that you are sharing Philippians 4:8 with your kids for training in righteousness. It will serve them well all throughout life. God bless you abundantly!

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  7. Brooke, this is such a great post! I attend Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and have read that book by Chuck Smith -- need to pull it out again. You shared Is 26:3 and so did Jen at SDG --- don't you love it when God repeats Himself to you? :)

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    1. Thanks so much! I love listening to Pastor Bob Coy on The Word for Today radio station! He is such a gifted teacher. I go to Calvary Chapel, here on the West Coast. I was introduced to Pastor Chuck Smith and his wonderful teachings and books, years ago, during my time at Calvary Chapel Bible College. His book, "Effective Prayer Life" was one of our required reading texts. I learned so much from it. That is so neat that Jen shared Isaiah 26:3 at SDG, too. I love when God does that! God bless you richly!

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  8. I think that it is quite awesome that we both shared the same verse!!

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    1. Jen, that is so neat! I love how God works like that! God bless you lots!

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  9. This is a wonderful post! Years ago I struggled with anxiety and depression. It was awful. It took me years to overcome but God showed me that through focusing on Him and Him alone I could overcome those thoughts. When I feel like an anxiety attack was coming on (I would get physical symptoms with mine) I would say "Jesus, I'm not in control of my body right now so I need you to be." I would repeat this over and over until I released every bit of control and trusted in Him that everything would be okay. After reading "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer I learned to line up my thoughts with God's truth and His character. I also learned that not every thought that entered my mind was from me, rather they could be from Satan, and I had to bring any thoughts that didn't align with God's truth under the authority of Christ. :-) It was a daily struggle but through the years has gotten so much easier and I now believe I am healed completely of that. Thank you for sharing this!

    I'm visiting from Titus 2 Tuesdays and now following your blog via Facebook and GFC. Have a great week!

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    1. Thanks, Faith! What a fabulous testimony! Thank you so much for sharing! Rejoicing with you for God's faithful deliverance! God bless you mightily!

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  10. Thank you fir this. I've read Phil 4 so many tines & never thought to break it diem like this. What a wonderful exercise, esp when I'm in the middle of dwelling on dark thoughts.

    Visiting from Ann voskamp

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    1. So glad this blessed you, Rosita! Praying this helps set you free from dark thoughts. God bless you richly!

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  11. Wise advice, Brooke. Thank you. You linked up just before me at A` Holy Experience today, and I'm glad I stopped by.

    Keeping a gratitude journal and memorizing Scripture help me tremendously in the battle with anxiety, but those would both fall within the rubric you lay out here, wouldn't they?

    Grace and peace to you in Jesus this week.

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    1. Thanks so much! I believe "Keeping a gratitude journal and memorizing Scripture" definitely qualify under the banner of Philippians 4:8. Like you said, both are fantastic ways to overcome anxiety. God bless you abundantly!

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  12. Excellent post! I always think of a cow chewing its cud when I think of anxious thoughts. We, like the cow, continue to bring it up to our thoughts and chew them some more, we worry over things and never let them digest. Thanks for linking this up this week!

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    1. Thanks, Kate! When I was reading up on Biblical meditation, the cow chewing the cud was the illustration I read in how we are to chew on God's Word. It also said if you can worry, you can meditate on Scripture, because worry is simply a negative form of meditation. So that's very neat that the cow chewing its cud is what you picture about anxious thoughts. And I love how you put it. "We, like the cow, continue to bring it up to our thoughts and chew them some more, we worry over things and never let them digest." Well said! God bless you lots!

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Thank you for taking the time to share. May God bless you richly!