How would changing your negative ways of thinking change your relationship with God?
Several years ago, I was talking to a friend about some areas of my life I was discouraged about. She was trying to help me, but her words of encouragement were falling on deaf ears.
After many attempts at trying to cheer me up, my friend told me – ever so gently – “You know … you can be kind of like Eeyore sometimes.”
I was offended. But I also knew she was right.
Eeyore is the sweet but gloomy gray donkey many of us know and love from A.A. Milne’s children’s story Winnie the Pooh. In comparing me with Eeyore, my friend was trying to say, “You can view things too negatively.”
Recently, I read an article that called negative thinking The Eeyore Syndrome. According to this article, negative thinking can be pervasive among teenagers. I know it was for me as a teen, and because I didn’t learn to change it then it has followed me into adulthood.
Negative thinking can be miserable – you believe and expect that the worst will happen. It can also make Christianity extremely difficult because a Christian is someone who believes God is good and God rewards (Hebrews 11:6).
God can free us from our negative thinking by teaching us to trust him and love other people. Here are some steps you can take to start overcoming negative thoughts.
Let God change the way you think
Don’t live the way this world lives. Let your way of thinking be completely changed. Then you will be able to test what God wants for you. And you will agree that what he wants is right. His plan is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:2 NIrV
Sometimes, one of the biggest things we have to change to be closer to God and confident in his plan is our way of thinking, not our behavior.
Is your “way of thinking” usually more negative and unbelieving or positive and faithful?
One of the biggest ways God changes my way of thinking is by letting me go through tests and trials where I don’t get what I want right away. This teaches me to think differently; for example, maybe that thing I am chasing isn’t what would actually make me happy.
Like a good parent, God will try to teach me to find what I actually need, and what will actually be best for me, even if I get mad at him in the process.
My way of thinking is usually that if I get everything I want when I want it, I will be happy. But, getting everything you want all the time doesn’t necessarily make you happy or satisfied (Ecclesiastes 2:1, Luke 9:25).
What experiences in your life do you think God is using to teach you to think about differently?
What negative “ways of thinking” do you need to change?
Let’s identify some types of negative thoughts in the Bible. God can free us from these types of thoughts, if we let him.
The LORD your God will go ahead of you. He will fight for you. With your own eyes you saw how he fought for you in Egypt.  You also saw how the LORD your God brought you through the desert. He carried you everywhere you went, just as a father carries his son. And now you have arrived here.”  In spite of that, you didn’t trust in the LORD your God.  He went ahead of you on your journey. He was in the fire at night and in the cloud during the day. He found places for you to camp. He showed you the way you should go.
Deuteronomy 1:30-33 NIrV
God promises over and over again to take care of us, to go ahead of us, and to fight for us. It’s remarkable that after all God did for the Israelites, they still doubted he cared for them. Yet I find myself doing this too; God has fought for me in so many ways, but I still doubt him.
- What are some ways God has watched out for you and cared for you throughout your life?
- How do you think it makes God feel when you doubt him after all the ways he takes care of you and your life?
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
Romans 8:5 MSG
The Bible says that obsession with yourself is a dead end. That means it never solves anything or produces what you want. A lot of my negative thinking is actually self-absorbed thinking. For example:
- What is she thinking of me? Are they talking about me? How do I look? Do I look fat today? Is he mad at me? Do I look cool? Do people like me? Was what I just said dumb?
- Obsessing with yourself will make you have negative thoughts, because you are constantly measuring yourself against other people.
- What kind of self-absorbed thoughts fill your mind on a daily basis? How do these thoughts affect you emotionally?
- According to the scripture in Romans 8, how do these self-absorbed thoughts affect your relationship with God?
There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things.
1 John 3:19 VOICE
To “condemn” is to express strong disapproval of something. This scripture says that storms of guilt make us feel condemned. So, if we could be free from guilt, we would be free from a lot of negativity.
Guilt gives me a lot of negative thoughts:
- Guilt makes me think people are after me, when they are just trying to help.
- Guilt cuts down my confidence and makes me think, “I can’t do this, I fail all the time.”
- Guilt makes me edgy, because I already feel so bad about myself I don’t want anyone to say anything that might make me feel worse.
I often try to escape the negative feelings that come from guilt by excusing it – with thoughts like “It wasn’t that bad! I didn’t mean to! Everyone does it …” But when I try to hide my guilt, I never experience the freedom that comes from being honest or the kindness of God taking my guilt away (Psalm 32, 1 John 1:7-10).
Luckily, God has solutions for guilt, if we are humble enough to take them. He just wants us to admit the truth and admit we need his help. I don’t have to pretend to be good or perfect. God is strong enough and good enough to save me from my sins and free me from my guilt.
- What are some things you’ve been feeling guilty about recently?
Break free from negative thinking
Now that we’ve identified the root of some of our negative thought patterns, let’s look at how God can free us from them.
Think about God, not self
Why am I so overwrought, Why am I so disturbed? Why can’t I just hope in God? Despite all my emotions, I will believe and praise the One who saves me, my God.
Psalm 42:11 Voice
From this scripture we learn that we can decide to believe in God and what he says, despite all our emotions. You don’t have to live by your negative emotions and believe that they are true.
- If you are going to learn to think more about God than yourself, you are going to need to do some spiritual work. You will need to read more of the Bible than you are used to reading.
- Challenge yourself to read more chapters of the Bible each day to get to know how good and kind God really is and to change your mind to think more positively about him and his plan for your life. You can use an audio Bible or a visual Bible if it helps you process better what you read. The goal is to fill your mind with more thoughts about God than thoughts about yourself.
Think about others, not self
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
1 John 3:18 MSG
Practicing love for others shuts down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it! That means that even if there is truth in your negative thoughts, you can break free from them by caring for other people. These thoughts don’t have to own you.
- Write down the names of a few friends or people you know who are in need of some encouragement right now. What could you do that would make them feel loved?