Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
How many of us are like the man who comes home from work each day, tired, frustrated with heavy traffic, and wanting to just sit down and relax for a while, and do nothing?
I heard of one such guy who, when he walked in the front door each night, his wife would verbally hit him with all the calamities of the day.
She was home alone, and needed to talk to him. But it was getting a bit too much. So, one night he said , Honey, before you hit me with everything that’s going wrong, could you at least let me sit down and enjoy a good meal? The next night, as soon as he walked in the door, she said, Honey, hurry up and eat. I have something terrible to tell you.
I know, it’s not a very good joke but there is a point to it. Too often we fear the worst of every situation. John Milton wrote, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.”
Have you ever noticed that people tend to expect things to go badly? Often, without any conscious prompting, our minds automatically jump to and fixate on the worst possible scenarios. Maybe you know someone like that.
We put ourselves through so much stress, anxiety, and mental anguish because we dwell on negative possibilities that aren’t actually happening! It’s a case of an overactive imagination being used for ill. We would save ourselves a lot of suffering if we could stop our minds from dwelling on the most horrible ‘what ifs’ we can come up with. Think of the popular saying, If you expect the worst, you’ll never be disappointed.
Psychologists and counsellors say live in the moment, take time to smell the roses! While it might be cliché, this old truth is fundamentally solid advice. To put it simply, when you’re engaged in the here and now, you’re focused on a reality that you can control, and you’re in a position to notice and appreciate all of the blessings around you.
But if you’re fretting about what might come to pass, you don’t have enough bandwidth left to enjoy other aspects of your life. You’re exacerbating your anxiety and unhappiness by choosing to dwell on things you can’t change or control. Fear blows things out of proportion. Fear makes problems much bigger than they really are. Maybe what you’re fearing is never even going to happen.
A salesman, driving on a lonely country road one dark and rainy night, had a flat tyre, he opened his car boot and there was no jack. He was stuck. But he could see a farm house up the road with the lights on. He set out on foot through the driving rain.
He thought, Surely the farmer would have a car jack I could borrow. But of course (it was late at night) the farmer would be asleep in his warm, dry bed. Maybe he wouldn’t answer the door. And even if he did, he’d be angry at being awakened in the middle of the night. He wasn’t in a very positive frame of mind that wet night. The salesman, picking his way blindly in the dark, stumbled on. By now his shoes and clothing were soaked.
He kept thinking that even if the farmer did answer his knock, he would probably shout something like, What’s the big idea waking me up at this hour? This thought made the salesman angry. What right did that farmer have to refuse him the loan of a tyre brace and jack? After all, here he was stranded in the middle of nowhere, soaked to the skin.
The salesman finally reached the house and banged loudly on the door. A light went on inside, and a window opened above. A voice called out, Who is it? His face white with anger, the salesman called out, You know darn well who it is. It’s me! And you can keep you blasted tyre wrench. I wouldn’t borrow it now if you had the last one on earth! He got himself all worked up, expecting the worst.
The peace beyond all understanding
Someone once said that fear is the wrong use of imagination. It is anticipating the worst, not the best that can happen.
The Bible has a wonderful verse for us negative-thinking people to ponder over:
The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1 – NIV)
When President Franklin Roosevelt assumed office during the throes of the Great Depression, he sought to encourage the nation in his inaugural address, and in doing so, he made the statement: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Here’s a great verse of encouragement from the New Testament:
“Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.” (Philippians 4:6-7 – The Voice)