Getting caught up in thinking about bad things is very, very easy these days.
People are surrounded by negative influences and things move at a million miles an hour, which makes it hard not to get mentally overtaken by it all.
But in the Bible, the Apostle Paul is quoted as saying that people should fill their minds with thoughts of things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report, and to think on things of virtue and that include praise (Philippians 4:8). That basically means we shouldn’t burden ourselves with negatively-oriented thought processes, we shouldn’t believe we can “fix” stuff if we just think about it enough, and we shouldn’t be bound down by a spirit of guilt that causes us to feel as if we’re obligated to dwell and obsess on the difficult, trying and unpleasant aspects of our lives.
That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t recognize our responsibilities to what’s important in our lives and throw every last crumb of our trials to the wind and ignore them. The Bible also tells us we need to do what we need to do, and do it heartily (see Ezra 10:4, Proverbs 21:25 and many other scriptures).
Heck, even some the columns I write for this newspaper are about negative subjects – because that kind of material is so common in today’s society – and that requires steering my brain in a negative direction. But when I’m done penning a piece about some ridiculous policy, unfortunate trend or future calamity that seems inevitable, I then put my brain back in “lovely” mode.
But you know what? Paul wasn’t just whistling Dixie when he said what he said about this subject. His point was that we’re not on this planet long enough to waste that short time with constant grappling with what we perceive as the negative cards in the hand we’re dealt.
The fact is, smile-worthy things will happen in your life – no matter what – that present an opportunity to follow Paul’s advice.
Like when rain was coming down last weekend and the cascading water made that wonderful sound as it fell through the trees outside the house where my wife Wendy and I reside.
The fact that the grass, flowers and other plants were being bathed so readily in the liquid gold was enough to make Wendy and I smile as we sat on the porch, but listening to the rushing sound of water hitting leaves made it even more wonderful – louder, softer, then louder again and softer again.
Kind of a natural orchestra – of course led by the great conductor, God.
Like those big ‘ol steaks Wendy cooked the other night.
The meat was succulent and the accompanying sweet potatoes and greens were great, too. A little County Bob’s sauce (direct from St. James, you know) and the meal was a smile-maker.
Like when Gertie (the Permapup) looked at me with a gleam in her eyes the other day, seeming to say “thank you” for that tidbit of cheese. Then she proceeded to make that funny grunting sound as she rubbed her back on the rug, looking like a salmon going upstream in the rapids of a mountain river.
That never gets old.
Like in the evening when you come around the corner on that road you drive on several times a day and you can’t help but notice the colorful sunset that’s laid out before you like a photo on a postcard.
Like when you go to a friend’s house and enjoy a dice or card game, or when you watch an incredible movie that moves you to tell people about it, or when you help your daughter get the yard in order at her rental house in Springfield.
That’s what it’s all about. Not politicians, taxes, Wall Street, gas prices or ticks.
You might say, “oh, but you don’t understand – my family’s against me, my job is impossible and you can’t comprehend how bad I really have it and how hard I’m trying to work things out.”
Actually, Paul did understand all of that and still made his statement.
You might say, “well, I guess God has me where I’m at and I’ll just ride it out and hope for something better.”
News flash: He also put the great steaks, the falling rain, the funny dogs and the beautiful sunsets in our lives, and Paul is simply recommending that we might consider giving those things higher priority in our craniums.
And as much as our flesh wants to tell us otherwise, that really, truly – and even biblically – is OK.
In life, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly. I think what Paul wished for us is that our brains would treat things in that order.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.