Originally published Monday, 30 September 2013.
"It's your fault! You make me so annoyed!" My youngest glared at me with scrunched up nose and narrowed eyes.
I reminded him that no one makes him feel angry or frustrated, those feelings come from what's going on in his heart.
"In fact," I said, "Your feelings come from your thoughts. If you are thinking angry thoughts, you will feel angry and it will come out in your actions toward others."
He looked at me, doubtful.
My other son, not wanting to be left out of the conversation, said, "Cool. That means we can read your mind. When you are feeling angry, then we know what you are thinking."
Yep, son. That's totally where I was going with this.
I talked about this thoughts to feelings concept with the ladies in my Bible study a couple of weeks ago. We had been talking about fear and the struggles they had with feeling panicked about life's circumstances. I told them that in counseling, we would help a person see that their feelings come from their thoughts. They are the outward expression of what is happening inwardly, not the other way around. Scripture says something similar, "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of" Luke 6:45. "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" Proverbs 4:23. "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" 2 Corinthians 10:5.
Then I went on to explain that underlying our thoughts are our beliefs. What we believe about God, ourselves, and life triggers our thoughts which then brings about our feelings and then finally our actions.
So here's the question, when I am feeling fearful, worried, and in despair over my life, what is it that I am thinking? And ultimately, what is it that I believe?
And on the flip side of that, what would happen if I believed in God's great love for me through Christ? What if it gripped my heart? What would my thoughts be like? My feelings? My actions?
Here's what I know to be true: God the Father loves me as much as He loves the Son (John 17:23). This love is not because of anything I have done (Ephesians 2:8) and has existed before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1). Not only that, there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more or to make Him love me less (Romans 8:1). It's His love that will never let go of me (Romans 8:38-39). And everything that He does is for my good (Romans 8:28).
How amazing is that truth? Doesn't it just blow you away?
When I believe that I am treasured by the Creator of the universe, I will desire to know, love and obey Him more. The truth of His love will effect how I think about myself and my problems. It will overflow into my feelings and then into how I respond to others and my circumstances. Elyse Fitzpatrick says in Because He Loves Me "it is only an appreciation of his love that can motivate genuine obedience." She also writes, "Our problem is that if we don't continually remind ourselves of how he has chosen, renamed, and remade us, the struggle to grow in Christian character will become nothing more than another attempt at self-improvement, and self-improvement always results in self-loathing or pride."
We all know the power of love. It's pull makes a parent do the impossible to save their child. It's bond makes a sibling give a part of themselves to save their brother or sister. It's dedication and commitment keeps a couple together through thick and thin, sickness and health.
And when it comes to the love of God, its grace makes a holy and righteous Son take on human flesh to lower himself into a world darkened by sin, evil, poverty, and shame. This Son loved God's children so much that He would do whatever it took to take away their sin and all that kept them from being in relationship with their Father. He faced the same griefs, temptations, fears, hunger, pain, sorrow, and sickness that we face yet never sinned even once. Because of His perfect life, He could become the perfect sacrifice. At the cross, He took on all our sin and shame and accepted the punishment we deserve. He death secured for us forgiveness and access to our Father. Through faith in this Son, Jesus Christ, God sees us as holy, pure, and acceptable. Our sins are cast as far as the east is from the west; God remembers them no more. When He rose from the grave, Christ conquered death for good, ensuring that one day, we too will have resurrected bodies and enjoy eternity with our Lord.
Do you know this love? This is a life changing, no-turning back, crazy love. And it's this love that changes us from the inside out. When we believe in this love, we are never the same.
The question is, if I met you, could I "read your mind" as my son said? Would I know that you believe in love?