Controlling Stressful Thoughts
In my research on joy, I discovered that our circumstances are not inherently stressful; it’s our thoughts about a circumstance that make it stressful.
The more I think about this, the more I’m convinced. Just look at public speaking for example. For some, public speaking is easy. But for others, it’s the most stressful thing they’ll ever do. It’s not that public speaking carries stress with it. It’s what we think about public speaking.
This makes sense when you look at the Bible too.
In the book of Philippians, we find Paul in jail. Yet he is repeatedly saying he is rejoicing.
How can he rejoice when he is in one of the most stressful situations imaginable? If we were in jail, we would not be talking about joy.
But being in jail is not inherently stressful. It does not automatically carry stress with it. It is what we think about being in jail.
And Paul thought about jail as a way of living for Christ (Phil. 1:18-20). His thoughts about the circumstance do not communicate stress; they communicate joy.
Knowing this, how can we capture our thoughts and rewire them for joy?
It’s important to know that our beliefs are just repeated thoughts.
In Philippians, Paul uses the words “joy” and “rejoicing” sixteen times in a short book. He is repeating a declaration for joy. He is repeating the thought he wants to believe.
Many people believe we are passive in the process of our beliefs. We are presented with evidence first and then we believe in it.
But the process is actually more active than this. We can actively choose what we want to believe, and then actively practice that thought we want to repeat.
So in the face of daily stress, what thought do you want to repeat?
In the Bible, we are told we can do hard things because of Jesus. We are told that God loves and cares for us. And we are told that one day our sorrow will turn to joy.
The more we repeat these Biblical truths as thoughts, the more we believe them, and the more we rewire our thoughts about stressful circumstances in light of joy.
Today, make an effort to capture the thoughts about your stressors. Then, repeat what you want to believe. Slowly but surely, you will rewire your thoughts to bear the contentment that Paul had in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11).
so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Philippians 1:26 ESV