Shaped By Thoughts

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Proverbs 23:7

Gem Gilbert was a British tennis star who died a most unusual death. But that’s getting ahead of the story.

As a young girl, Gem watched her mother die of shock in a dentist’s chair after having a tooth pulled-a tragic but unlikely accident. And Gem became convinced that she would die the same way. For thirty years Gem carried this image in her mind. Understandably, she avoided dentists!  But finally Gem developed a toothache so painful that she had to visit a dentist. Terrified, she took along her pastor, her medical doctor, and her best friend. But their support was not enough. Gem died before she could even get into the chair.

The British press worded the obituary this way. “Gem Gilbert had been killed by thirty years of thought.”

Certainly this is an extreme example. But  many women do the same thing that Gem did. Perhaps their mother was an alcoholic, and they are terrified of being like her. Or, like a friend of mine, they had an abusive mother and fear that is their destiny too. It doesn’t have to be. Self-defeating cycles can be broken, but only the heart is touched at an emotional and thinking level. And that happens if, every day, we dedicate our minds and our thoughts to Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I dedicate my mind and my thoughts to you today.

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The Lie of Worthlessness

Let no one despise you.

Titus 2:15

Everybody hates me, nobody likes me, I’m going out to eat worms. This little chant was one we children used to say when we felt sorry for ourselves. As adults we’re a little less dramatic; we just say,”I’m worthless.” But both the childhood and adult sayings are lies we must confront.

I often ask my clients to provide support for their self-accusations. For instance, I asked Kay to prove her contention that she was worthless. It was as if she had rehearsed her speech for years. She proceeded to tell me about being molested from childhood through adolescence, about being addicted  to sex, drugs, and alcohol. I then said to Kay, “I’m not convinced. Does doing worthless things make a person worthless?” She answered, “No.” Then she began to understand what I was getting at. She said, “Maybe, I’m not worthless.”

Correcting the lie of worthlessness was important because as long as Kay believed she was worthless, she would continue to do things that made her feel worthless. When she learned to repent  and to forgive herself and others and to replace her lies about herself with truth, her actions began to change.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see the lies I’m telling myself. Thank you for being a dependable source of truth.

Daily Confrontations

The Lord will strengthen her on her bed of illness; You will sustain her.

Psalms 41:3

Marilyn came for counseling with physical, emotional, and relational problems. Her doctors had diagnosed her as having multiple sclerosis, a progressive neurological disorder that leads to blindness or paralysis. The disease can progress for a time and then go into remission for two or three years before recurring. There is no known cure.

Counseling helped Marilyn see that she did have choices. She could try to ignore her pain by continuing life as usual or run from it by becoming busier than ever. [The stress of this choice would probably make the disease progress more quickly.] She could make excuses about her illness or just worry about what would happen next. Resentment toward God was a possibility. So was just giving up and going to bed.

Marilyn looked at all these possible responses, and she tried many of them before and during counseling. Finally, however, she made the difficult decision to face her problems every day. This meant acknowledging her illness and its consequences and determining, with God’s help, to live with the truth. Marilyn decided to live one day at a time, make the best choices she could, and share her honest feelings with her loved ones.

Thought:  When pain comes my way, I will acknowledge it, verbalize my honest feelings about it, and discover how facing my pain helps decrease its intensity and duration.