“6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything Is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” ~Philippians 4:6-8
We like things to be in converse relationships- good vs. evil, light vs. dark, positive vs. negative. If we view our circumstances through the classifications of the latter, we inevitably will focus in closer on one aspect than the other. Where does my mind often drift to and rest? In honesty, I so often frequent the negative. In a sense it is to simply sort and understand the negative, but in the long run I lose valuable life dwelling on the very thing that could be overcome by simply not giving it so much undeserved attention. For instance, my tendency would be to live the above verses as such:
Be anxious for everything, in everything pray and petition last, neglect thanksgiving, handle everything on your own. … whatever is false, whatever is lowly, whatever is wrong, whatever is tainted, whatever is reprehensible, whatever is unworthy – if anything is lousy or illaudable – think about such things.
I rarely even realize when my inner negative attitudes or dispositions are being displayed. Yet, I can always tell because well…no one likes a “negative Nelly.” It isn’t about being the life of the group, but being the light. As a Christ follower, am I displaying him and his love others in my perspective on my circumstances?
To determine which side is our actual pattern, make a list of the negative and positive circumstances in life currently. Which list is longer? Which grouping or item receives a heavier weight? Regardless of how we imagine or want ourselves to be, what we think is what we are. You cannot simply wish to be a more joyful or positive person. It must be an inner change. The ultimate means is acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior. A secondary means is to choose. We can choose to see the ugly in life or we can behold beauty.
In the verse mentioned above (the actual verse, not mine), it says “in everything, in prayer and petition.” My initial “in everything” is to release an emotional response. Instead, Paul is instructing us [me] to offer all concerns in prayer. God wants us to come to him first. The idea that I even attempt to solve anything without going to him first strikes me as ridiculous, and yet that’s what I do! He also says to pray and petition “with thanksgiving.” The wisdom of offering thanks is that we 1) show gratitude to the One who deserves it all and 2) relinquish our selfish perspective.
God’s part in contentment is stated in verse seven. In the midst of unpleasant circumstances from the past or present, God provides His peace which “transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
My part in contentment is in the next verse. I must shift my habits from my own selfish perspective to a heavenly one. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As he thinketh in his heart, so he is.” Is what I think upon and therefore become glorifying to God? Changing a behavior (ultimately a heart) isn’t an overnight event. Believe me I’ve tried to break the cycle of negative thinking. The key that I had missed in those attempts is that learning a new lesson doesn’t occur in an all-or-nothing fashion. It takes practice! School lessons, music lessons, sports lessons etc. are all taught and then practiced many times over. Linda Dillow provides some suggestions for applying this principal into practice (additions in  mine):
· Choose to give our anxieties [and discontentment] to God
· Choose to pray specifically
· Choose to be thankful
· Choose to dwell on the positive
I am completely inadequate to be anything but discontent with an ugly perspective without God. His grace is sufficient, and by such we can “be transformed by the renewing of your [our] mind” (Romans 12:2). It is through Christ that we may experience a different kind of thinking, feeling, and perceiving. It is through Him that we may live with contentment.Further Reading:
Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment by Linda Dillow