Continuing the discussion of the advice from a Positive Thinker (PT), lets look at the second item that the PT would have you let go of: negative thinking. This is what she says:
Negative thinking is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. One negative thought leads to another, which leads to a snowball effect of thinking that you can’t control. Pay close attention to your thoughts by noticing your feelings, if you are thinking something that is potentially negative turn it around immediately and replace it with something positive. This simple act will make a world of difference to your mood, and your life over all.
It is a little bit hard for me to explain how I feel about this one. On the one hand, I do not think she is wrong in saying that it is not a good idea to dwell on negative thoughts. On the other hand, I feel that her use of “negative” and “positive” is ambiguous; I suspect that our ideas about each will differ. Of course, it is impossible for me to say for certain what the PT has in mind when she refers to “negative thinking,” but I have a pretty good idea. The PT seems to be all about feelings – you want to feel happy, loved, peaceful, etc; you do not want to feel sad, lonely, guilty, etc. If something makes you feel sad, don’t think about it; think about something that makes you feel happy. I wonder, though, if the PT is taking sinful thoughts into consideration. Given her opinion of guilt, I have a feeling she isn’t. Would she consider lust a negative thought, for instance? Again, I can’t say with any degree of certainty the PT’s definition of negative, but this ambiguity is what makes her advice somewhat dangerous. Now, it just so happens that a very similar admonition appears in the Bible (and much more clearly, too):
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Is it even possible to be more clear than that? Think about things that are true, not lies or falsehoods; things that are just, not unjust; pure, not dirty; lovely, not ugly; commendable, not improper; things that are excellent and worthy of praise, not foul or that need be censured. The Bible is also pretty clear about what is true, just, pure, etc. Quite simply, the best things for us to be thinking about are God and His Word. This is wonderfully expressed in the Psalms – lets take a look, shall we?
1Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. 4The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
In these few verses we see that there is a clear difference in a wicked lifestyle and the life of one who immerses himself in the word of God – the life of one is blessed, the other is mere useless trash blown away by the wind. I love that the Psalmist delights in the law of the Lord – it is not a burden or an onerous chore to meditate on the word of God; instead it is a gift and a blessing!
This is expressed in even stronger language in Psalm 63:
1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
5My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Not only is the steadfast love of God better than life, the mere thought of the Lord is like a rich feast to the soul! Is that not better than casting about for some vague “positive thought?”
1I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will make music.
2I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
3I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
4 A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.
9How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes!
13With my lips I declare
all the rules[a] of your mouth.
14In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
15I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word
97Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100I understand more than the aged,[b]
for I keep your precepts.
101I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
103How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
These passages illustrate that reading and thinking about and meditating on God’s word is necessary to keep us from falling into sin and temptation. Thus Paul’s exhortation to think on things that are true and pure and excellent. Thinking on these things will indeed make your life better – a better witness, a better example, a better reflection of God’s glory.*
These are just a few passages that exemplify my point. Others in Psalms that would be worthwhile reads are Psalms 8, 42, 92, 141, and 147.
*It is important to note that better should not be confused with easier. Christian’s are not promised a life free from struggle, not should we expect one.