The Centers for Disease Control says that as of 2012 nearly half of all adults in America (117 million people) had some form of chronic disease. The likely hood is that you or someone you know suffers from chronic illness or pain. The results of this can be devastating both on the individual as well as the family. The consequences of such a situation is not only the financial cost but the emotional and spiritual burden hat such a problem brings as well. These are the issues that are often the most overlooked unfortunately.
In this article I want to address the emotional and spiritual condition of those who struggle with chronic problems and try to give both insight and answers for the trial. Let’s begin with the emotional side of things. People who have chronic illness and pain struggle with a variety of emotional issues. Anxiety over the illness itself, over the expenses, over the strain on their families and over the prospects of ever having relief or recovery from the illness or pain can dominate the mind. Grief over the loss of personal abilities, health, family response and social life can be overwhelming. Then there are the emotional issues of loneliness, depression and the constant mental battle that you cannot take any more. These issues can be many times as devastating as the problem itself.
Can there be hope of victory over the emotional problems even if the physical issues remain? The answer to that is yes, but not without a fervent dedication to the solution. Many times in counseling I have told people one of the most basic truths of life which is that life is not about what happens to you, it is about how you respond to it. Victory in life is not about what your circumstances are, it is about how you respond to those circumstances and whether you let them dominate you, or you rise above them. This is at its core a matter of cultivating a determined mind. The control of your mind is where you must begin if you are going to have victory over the emotional issues brought about by your situation. The Bible consistently teaches us that the main way to have victory over troubling thoughts is to develop directed thinking.
It says in Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:” If a person will develop control in their thinking they can have victory over their emotional life. There are two passages of scripture that give us some clear direction on how to gain this control over the thought life. The first of these passages is in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” You do not have to allow the strong holds of anxiety, grief, loneliness, depression or other emotional responses have a place in your mind. You can have victory over them by following the three step process found in this text. First, cast down the wrong imaginations that you have been entertaining. Don’t let your mind run wild into all the possible scenarios that could take place or into the poor me’s. Determine not to dwell in negative thinking so that you don’t make your bad situation worse with emotional problems. Casting down wrong imaginations means that you refuse to entertain the thinking about the negative side of your problems.
The second step shown here is to capture your thinking. It says “bringing into captivity every thought”. Captured thinking means that you not only reject the negative thoughts but you purposely determine what you are going to think about. I will give you some tools to accomplish this in just a moment, but I want to lay the foundation here that directed thinking will help you to avoid the situation where your mind constantly runs to the negative. Captured thinking says, I will decide what my mind will dwell on, I will decide where my thoughts are directed. You cannot control the illness, you cannot control the pain but you can control your mind and when you have control over your mind you restore a central element that chronic issues rob people of which is the feeling of having control in their life.
The third step in 2 Corinthians 10 is to correct wrong thinking. It uses the phrase, “having a readiness to revenge all disobedience”, this means that some of the wrong thinking that you have allowed may have embedded itself in your natural responses. You will have to root out any negative natural responses and reject them for the right biblical responses that you are going to put in their place. Often we don’t realize just how much of our thinking and reaction is based upon our past thoughts and wrong beliefs. You will want to search out those wrong beliefs and replace them with right ones so that you will not fall back into the trap of negative thinking.
The process of developing right thinking is explained in Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
There are four points that need to be understood from this passage in order to develop right thinking patterns. The first step is to instill a spirit of rejoicing in your life. It says in Isaiah 61:3 to “put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness”. The way to develop the positive thinking of praise in your life is through having set times through the day to consider things that you can praise God for. I recommend that you keep a 3×5 card file and on one of these cards write three things that you can thank God for each morning, noon and evening. Doing this three times each day will give you a directed pattern of praise. Of course at first it may be hard to think of three things that you can thank God for because you have developed negative thinking patterns but the more that you practice this the more you will find that it lifts the vail of dark emotions that have tried to overcome you.
The second step in changing your thinking is to purpose moderation in your life. It is easy when one area of your life is out of control to allow other areas to follow suit. The scriptures said “let your moderation be known”, this means that what areas you can control you should. I don’t mean what people, I mean you can control some aspects of your daily routine, you can control your medications by not abusing them, you can control your diet, television viewing, social media posting and many other aspects of your life. Don’t allow one area that is beyond your control allow the rest of your life to become uncontrolled as well. Realizing that you still have a lot of control in life will help you direct your thinking to where it should be.
The third step in changing your thinking is to develop a real personal relationship with God. This itself is key in gaining control over the spiritual aspects of dealing with chronic problems. In order to have a real relationship with God you first must know Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. If you don’t know Christ as your Saviour I encourage you to learn more about how you can through the Bible studies offered here. If you do know Christ as your Saviour it is important that you develop a close and intimate fellowship with Him through personal devotions. I encourage you to keep a devotional journal and make a record of your devotional time each day. Put the date in the top right corner so that you can be honest about your consistency. Write the passage that you are reading on the top left and in the first couple of lines write notes about your prayer time that day. I use the Lord’s model prayer as a template for my prayer time, that gives me five sections for prayer. First I spend time praising God for what He has done in my life and for who He is. I then spend time asking Him what He wants me to do for Him today, I ask who He wants me to minister to or witness to. It is important to ask God to help you minister to others, remember that as bad as things may be for you others have needs as well. After this I ask God to meet my personal needs and I ask if there is anything that He wants me to ask for. The fourth part of my prayer is to ask forgiveness for my personal sins and also to ask God if there is anyone I need to forgive. Sometimes harboring unforgiveness toward others is a greater burden to cary than physical illness. Finally I spend time praying for the needs of others.
After you pray, read the Bible and write down what God spoke to you about as you read. Every day God has a personal message for you from His Word. This message may be in the form of a promise that He has made, it could be a principle that helps you to make decisions in your life or it could be a commandment that God wants you to keep. Write down what stands out to you in the passage and how you can apply it to your life. If your chronic issues keep you bound home then you might consider doing extended devotional times in the mourning and evenings and even at noon if you can. The more time you spend meditating on the positive things of God the more control you will have over the emotional and spiritual issues that chronic problems bring.
The final point that needs to be made about how to develop directed thinking is found in the last verse we sited in Philippians. Make a list of things to think about, the list given here is “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise” Rather than allowing negative thinking, direct yourself to positive thinking. Think about how you can minister to or help others. This process is not easy, it will require a dedication to changing your thoughts but if you will apply yourself to it there is a promise in the Bible that you will be free from the destructive emotional burdens that have added to your problem.
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