Even though I am a die-hard optimist, I had a rude awakening about the power of positive thinking – as a committed Christian, my positive thoughts don’t hold any inherent supernatural power to force God’s will into existence.
My positive thoughts, affirmations and visualization aren’t a substitute for discerning God’s will. Nor can my positive thoughts and visualisation substitute the “hard work” of patient trusting and faith that declares “Thy will be done.”
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? God, not my positive thoughts, is the Almighty and only real power in the Universe. Yet many of us have seen and heard testimonials of the benefits and outcomes of positive thinking.
Jesus implores us to “Ask believing to receive.” (Matthew 21:22)
Asking and believing imply the expectation of a positive outcome. Belief requires holding positive thoughts in faith. Our faith influences the outcome of our prayers.
Paul admonishes the believers in the Church at Rome to “be transformed by the renewing of their minds,” to not think and act like non-believers who are influenced by the things in this world. Our thoughts coming from our renewed minds influence our behaviour. (Romans 12:2)
Disappointing outcome of positive thinking
Following the teachings of the Bible and influenced by an endless list of spirituality teachers, I recently spent quite some time and effort convincing myself, through positive thinking and visualization, that a new career opportunity was mine. I saw a series of coincidental events as further proof that I was headed in the right direction and that I could expect to get the job offer. Many people were praying with me and for me. Many people made positive affirmations and said that they could clearly see me in that new role. So did I. When the job offer did not materialize, I was disappointed. What the heck went wrong?
On reflection, I realized that I had spent an inordinate amount of time convincing myself – fighting against recurring negative thoughts and doubts that I wouldn’t get the job offer. Negative thoughts stirred up feelings of fear and anxiety, which I tried to eliminate by using positive thinking to predict a positive outcome. The positive thoughts not only calmed my fear and anxiety, but made me falsely believe that I correctly discerned God’s will. That’s wishful thinking!
Nothing is wrong with replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts that are based on the teachings of the Bible. Our thoughts do determine our attitude and influence outcomes of things that are generally within our control.
The big lesson I learned from this experience is that affirming a positive thought, or visualizing a desired outcome is not to be mistaken for the voice of God or the revelation of His will.
Faith to receive God’s best
Faith in the uncompromising love and goodness of God is at the core of the declaration “Thy will be done.” The believing that Jesus implores us to do when we ask in prayer is about having faith that His answer will always be for our highest good. Rather than fearing an outcome that I don’t want, I have resolved that I will ask in faith for what I desire but leave myself open to receive God’s highest and best.
In my struggle to rid my mind of negative thoughts, I have learned that residual fear can co-exist with faith. This is where the struggle between intention and action occurs. Paul tells his fellow Christians in Rome that he knows in faith what he is to do, but he is prevented by his fear of letting go and trusting God completely to help him do what he ought to do. (Romans 7:24). The truth is that even in the face of fear it is possible to step out in faith to do what I ought to do. This is courage. Courage comes from trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit, who is also my Comforter and support in times of struggle with fear which can weaken my will to surrender to God’s will.
3 steps to increase faith
In my ongoing journey to live a life free from fear and anxiety, it is possible to root out negative thoughts, which is essential if I am to get to the place of increased faith and unbridled trust in God’s infinite goodness and love.
Three steps that I take every time I have a negative, fear-filled, anxious thought are–
- I have a conversation with myself –
- Is the thought factual?
- Is the thought supporting me?
- What’s the worst and best that could happen?
- I surrender to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by aligning body (physical reactions), soul (ego, emotions) and spirit (thoughts)
- Stop struggling to know the outcome
- Breathe deeply and relax in silence
- Pray – ask God to prevail, to be present, to powerfully control my emotions and give me more faith
- I affirm the Word of God, speak positively and courageously, even if I feel scared –
Finally, the Bible teaches us that faith is counted as righteousness. Abraham’s faith was counted as righteousness, which put him in a right, loving, guiding relationship with God. (Romans 4:3)
I am reassured that by Christ’s death, God sees me as having Christ’s righteousness. I can run to Him as my loving “Abba Father” when I feel afraid and my faith is weak (Galatians 4:6). God doesn’t hold my lack of faith against me, as long as I ask for more of it. I know for sure that I am being transformed as I grow in faith. Growth and transformation take time. Negative thoughts will die, as I nourish my mind with the Word of God. That’s how my faith will expand as I leave myself open to accept God’s faithfulness and goodness in the answers to my prayers.
Christ in me, the hope of glory! That’s why glory matters.