I have a choice and so do you
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
Rebecca writes that humans are often quite keen on labels, but we ought to be aware of how they influence our thoughts. She encourages us that we can choose our thoughts and using the example of gratitude, it can shape our lives to enjoy and reflect more of God’s glory.
The relationship between labels and our thoughts
Labels can be really helpful. Like when you are making a coffee and want to put in sugar and not salt. Labels have genuine uses. But sometimes labels can be limiting and can trap us in their confines.
Today, a lot of people want to label themselves as their Myers-Briggs combination of four letters or their Enneagram type. They want to explain aspects of their persona by the prescriptions and descriptions given by these personality tools; perhaps to have an excuse for an undesirable trait or a convenient and subtle way to boast about a strength.
However, these tools are not an authority for our lives; they are created by humans and do not engage with our whole selves. While they are definitely useful and can be utilised in a productive way, it is not healthy or constructive to limit your beliefs and values about yourself and others to these tools. As Psalm chapter 139 beautifully describes, only God knows us the most intimately and our worth and value derives solely from him.
We shouldn’t let our thoughts and actions be dictated by the fact we might be an ENFP or a type 4 on the Enneagram. When we become a slave to the labels, we become a slave to our thoughts and feelings influenced by these labels.
Mislead by our thoughts
It might be news to you but our thoughts and feelings can mislead us. Sometimes we might focus only on the negative or focus on our selfish desires. Our thoughts and feelings might be influenced by fears we have and the subsequent limits we place on God through these fears and past experiences.
But we have a choice. You may not realise but you can choose what you think. You can choose what you focus on. In fact, Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 5 that “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
We can take control of our thoughts. More than that, we can make our thoughts obedient to Christ. And God doesn’t make us do this alone: you can pray for the Holy Spirit to bring you peace and to guide you to shape your thinking to have the mind of Christ, a renewing of your mind, as the books of 1 Corinthians and Romans encourage us.
We have a responsibility with our thought life.
Awhile ago, Shawn Means preached at Windsor Park and during his sermon he quoted Star Wars with the phrase “your focus determines your reality” and it has really stuck with me. While it’s not quite the Bible but a movie, it is a valuable and wise insight. It is true that what you focus on and give attention to shapes your common mindset and the habits and practices that form in your life as a consequence. This goes for positive and negative things.
Your focus determines your reality
The thoughts you have can influence your feelings and behaviours, the way you react and respond to things.
I don’t know about your personal circumstances but I often feel worried or stressed about things going on in my life and in the world around me. I find myself worrying and focusing on the negative things, which leads to more stress and feeling down. Sometimes the things I worry about are difficult to solve, so I then feel further discontent that I can’t do anything about them.
As you can appreciate, this is not a satisfying way to live! (And it’s definitely not the John chapter 10, verse 10 life-to-its-fullest kind of life Jesus promised us).
But it doesn’t have to be this way because we have a choice. We can choose what we think and feel, and I will illustrate this with the example of gratitude.
An attitude of gratitude
More recently, Grant Harris, our Senior Pastor at Windsor Park, gave a sermon on gratitude. A couple of key takeaways from his sermon were: “the more we express gratitude the more likely we will have even more to express gratitude for” and that “gratitude doesn’t change what is in front of us, gratitude changes the way we see it”.
The more we express gratitude and focus on for what we can be grateful, the more it becomes easier to find even more things to be grateful about and we adopt an attitude of gratitude. This attitude becomes our reality because we have focused on being thankful. We can become more naturally grateful and our response to things can sooner be one of gratitude, rather than holding onto a negative emotion and remaining angry, hurt or sad and not progressing anywhere.
And when we do adopt an attitude of gratitude, the things in front of us may still not change. A difficult situation will still be a difficult situation. A bad thing will still be a bad thing. But we can look at it and see it as something to be grateful about. Perhaps it will teach us a new lesson, or we more clearly see our need to rely on God more and ourselves less.
Thinking about what we can be grateful for can encourage to look for good things in this world and in maintaining a posture of gratitude, we can thank God and praise him for the good things he has given us and also simply for who he is. These grateful thoughts can be an act of worship of God, a praise of his glory.
We can make our thoughts obedient to Christ. And God doesn’t make us do this alone.
We have a choice
So we have a choice with our thoughts. We can choose to see things as something to be grateful for. We don’t have to be slaves to the thoughts and emotions that hold us back from the growth and wonder that God provides us in this life. We can even be grateful in the midst of a storm.
Of course, we should take the time to grieve when we need to and to be realistic in our actions. But when you discover the freedom that Christ offers us, the freedom from fear, worry, and being slaves to sin, you can know that you can choose your thoughts. I pray we choose to look to Christ, and may the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, bring us peace and strength to think well.
Rebecca Hoverd studies law and geography at The University of Auckland and loves writing as a way to communicate with God and to unpack her thoughts. She loves coffee, conversations, and would love to hear your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
// Photo by Tim Pavis
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