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Miranda Writes: Stinking Thinking




by Omar Miranda

 

I want to talk about something that plagues a lot of teens: uncontrolled negative, illogical, or irrational thoughts. We don’t realize the power that our thoughts have over us. Out of your thoughts flows everything else about you. I know that sounds like I’m a Jedi knight, but it’s true. The Bible states clearly that as someone thinks in their heart, so they are; in other words, our thoughts many times are self-fulfilling: What we think ends up influencing what we do and, ultimately, what we become.

Before we get deeply into this topic, I want to say one thing: a preoccupation with suicidal, self-harming, or consistently depressive or compulsive thoughts should always lead you to a trusted adult immediately. Don’t mess around. If you don’t know anyone personally to talk to, several hotlines operate 24/7 with professionals who are there precisely for this purpose. Two numbers are: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-4357, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The truth is that lots of people—not just teens—have problems with their thoughts; they just can’t stop focusing on negative things. In terms of consistently negative and/or depressive thoughts, no amount of medication can make them think differently. Medications for things such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia can help people have more energy, motivation, and focus, but ultimately the drugs won’t help the habitual pattern of negative, unhealthy, and/or unrealistic thoughts.

Our thoughts can become habitual usually in two ways: Either someone is raised in an environment of negativity and unhealthy thought patterns, or they learn it through experiencing some sort of trauma or serious life-altering situation. Or both. Bottom line is this: Either we’re made this way by the families we’re raised in, or we make ourselves this way by what we experience in the world. Or both.

I’ve been counseling with teens for a long time, and—trust me—I’ve never met a “normal” or perfect family. It doesn’t exist. Families are made of individuals and the Bible tells us that we’re all sinful and evil. I know it sounds really depressing, but all is not lost.

Plug and play

There is hope.

There is hope in Jesus, because no matter how unhealthy we have been or what kind of craziness was happening—or is happening—in our families, if we’re Christians, the Holy Spirit can make us a new creation. The Bible has a lot to say about changing our thoughts and all the benefits that this change will bring us. Look, we all are sinful; there’s nothing in any of us that is any good. That’s why we’ve got to plug into an outside source other than ourselves. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes into play. Plug and play.

I want to share with you a couple of things, some information, and then I want to end with what the Bible has to say about choosing and controlling our thoughts.

First, repeat after me: “All psychology and counseling is not evil.” Go on, say it out loud. Good. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you that much psychology is evil. It’s evil because it’s based upon the idea that human beings are basically good. Many people believe that what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve, but we already know what the Bible has to say about that (see my column “The Brady Bunch Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Part 3”). At the same time, as a counselor, I can pair the best of psychology and counseling with what the Bible has to say about stuff and, thus, help the people I work with.

There is a theory of counseling and psychology called cognitive behavioral therapy. This is the type of therapy I like to use because it most closely matches what the Bible has to say about how we think. Bottom line is this: Fix the way you think, fix the way you act. It’s that simple. Well, no, it’s not simple at all, but it’s possible and very effective. Here’s how it works: A = Problem/Event, which leads to B = Thoughts/Core Beliefs, which leads to C = Feelings/Emotions, which ultimately leads to D = Actions/Behaviors.

In other words, when something goes wrong, we tend to already have a predetermined thought or a belief about what that represents to us. These thoughts or core beliefs are formed within us by the family we’re raised in or the types of experiences we’ve had in our lives. These beliefs many times tend to be negative and unrealistic, typically focusing on only two larger areas: feeling helpless/powerless and being unworthy or unlovable. These disordered or unhealthy thoughts and beliefs drive us to feel a certain way—typically not good—that then causes us to act or behave in a specific way. None of this is good. The problem is that many of us believe we can’t change anything and thus we are doomed to a lifetime of unhealthy thoughts.

New life

The truth is that we can change our thought patterns, and here is where the Holy Spirit comes into play. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this whole matter. Paul says in Romans 8:5-11: “People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves. Everyone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit thinks about spiritual things. If our minds are ruled by our desires, we will die. But if our minds are ruled by the Spirit, we will have life and peace. Our desires fight against God, because they do not and cannot obey God’s laws. If we follow our desires, we cannot please God. You are no longer ruled by your desires, but by God’s Spirit, who lives in you. People who don’t have the Spirit of Christ in them don’t belong to him. But Christ lives in you. So you are alive because God has accepted you, even though your bodies must die because of your sins. Yet God raised Jesus to life! God’s Spirit now lives in you, and he will raise you to life by his Spirit” (CEV).¹

Paul states in Colossians 3:1-3: “You have been raised to life with Christ. Now set your heart on what is in heaven, where Christ rules at God’s right side. Think about what is up there, not about what is here on earth. You died, which means that your life is hidden with Christ, who sits beside God” (CEV).

In other words, choose to focus only on good things.

Paul says in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise” (CEV).

Paul also says in Philippians 4:6, 7: “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel” (CEV).

Now here’s the kicker: You’re probably going to have to do this multiple times a day, because as I’ve said before, your thoughts are a product of habit, and you’ve got to start new habits.

Four-step process

So how do you actually do it? There’s a four-step process. The moment you begin to have negative, depressive, anxious, or compulsive thoughts:

1. Pray that God will give you wisdom (James 1:5) to recognize when you’re having a negative thought.

2. When you have the thought, immediately stop the thought and pray, giving God your concerns and the things that make you anxious (Philippians 4:6, 7).

3. Examine the thought. Is it positive or negative? What’s the unhealthy core belief behind it?

4. Replace the thought with something positive (Philippians 4:8). The Bible tells us that God has only good things in store for us, not bad things (Jeremiah 29:11). The best way that I know to replace negative thoughts with positive ones is to begin to memorize Scripture—both general verses about how much God loves you and specific verses dealing with whatever you’re struggling with.

Remember, when you harbor worry and anxious thoughts, you’re ultimately not trusting God to care for your needs; that’s not a good thing. David said it best in Psalm 119:9-11: “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have tried hard to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (NLT).2

I don’t want you to think that just knowing this information will magically change your life overnight. Remember, your negative thoughts didn’t happen overnight, so they’re not going to change overnight. But every day you and I can make positive choices, take baby steps, and surround ourselves with positive people who love us, who care for us, who will be honest with us, who will hold us accountable, and who will celebrate our achievements. And, if need be, get in touch with a good Christian counselor who can help you.

Until next time, remember these things: God’s way is always the best way. Life is full of decisions, so make yours good ones. Put God first in your life, and you can’t go wrong.

Feel free to contact me: you can e-mail me at omarmiranda@earthlink.net; or you can keep up with me on Facebook; or you can read more of my stuff on Miranda Writes, at www.insightmagazine.org; or you can check me out or send me a message at my Web site, thriveatlife.org; or you can reach me via snail mail (slow!) at the address printed below.

In Christ,Omar Miranda, certified Christian counselor
Abundant Life Ministries
155 Earl Street
Plainville, GA 30733
Phone: 1-770-354-2912

 1Scripture quotations marked CEV are from the Contemporary English Version. Copyright © American Bible Society 1991, 1995. Used by permission.
      2Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Omar Miranda is a Christian counselor with 20 years’ experience working with youth in public and private middle and high schools. He’s married and has two kids. He enjoys teaching the youth at his church, reading, writing, gardening, and camping. He’s a recovering knucklehead who spent a lot of time in the past doing stupid stuff away from God. He’s been back with God for years now and is eager to share what he’s learned from his experiences by answering any questions you may have about life, the Christian life, Jesus, spiritual matters, and relationships in his column, Miranda Writes.

 

 





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