Turn the Ship Around

ship in stormIf you looked in the dictionary under “angry man,” you would likely see a picture of the man in my office who sat across from me. His body was tense, he wore an intense frown and with clipped words began to list all the reasons he was entitled to be angry.   “I have never been appreciated,” he announced. “I’m the one who’s always being blamed for things not my fault.” As he continued to catalog all the wrongs in his life, it was clear this man believes the world is against him and to say he has a negative mind-set is an understatement!

As he told his story of a troubled childhood, failed relationships and difficulties keeping a job, I could quickly see the impact of all that negativity on his life! As a counselor, I knew he needed to feel a little bit of hope! Therefore, before we started probing into the reasons for all that anger, I acknowledged he must feel like he’s all alone on a ship in the middle of a storm. However, I went on, “Even in the midst of a storm, you can turn the ship around!”

He quickly and loudly declared he wasn’t just in a storm; he was in the middle of a tsunami! And, he wasn’t so sure about his being able to turn anything around. He, like so many people, felt certain his circumstances needed to change; that others should treat him differently, etc. That belief, of course, left him feeling helpless and out of control. No wonder he was so angry!

I then shared some good news with him:

Many years ago, the philosopher James Allen penned these words: “Order your thoughts and you will order your life. Pour the oil of tranquility upon the turbulent waters of the passions and prejudices, and the tempests of misfortune will be powerless to wreck the ship of your soul.” In other words, this man’s life can be transformed by the renewing of his mind – Romans 12.

“Angry man” will surely benefit as well from the teaching found in Philippians 4:8: “…think on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report. If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”

I was also able to inform him that medical science is now offering proof of these Biblical truths. Indeed, as Proverbs declares: “As a man thinketh, so is he.” As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. Dr. Caroline Leaf talks about this process: “As you think, you choose and you cause genetic expression to happen in your brain. This means you make proteins, and these proteins form your thoughts. Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate.” She also stated: “Deuteronomy 30:19 is becoming a reality in the world we live in today as we begin to see the effects of choice in the brain and body: “I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

Because I know the importance of these scriptural and medical truths, I asked him to think of two or three things he might be grateful for, even now.  As you might imagine, however, he struggled to come up with even one! His thoughts had for so long been ones of depression and disappointment, it was clear that changing their direction would be like turning a big ship around in the middle of the ocean!

While most people won’t likely sink to the level of despair as “angry man,” it is the rare person indeed who hasn’t struggled to follow the scriptural principle to renew your mind and think on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report….If there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things.

Have you ever thought of turning off the TV as an empowering action for your mind? A way to “renew your mind?” In this age of constant broadcasts as close as your phone, rest assured you will most often hear what’s wrong with the world. It’s difficult to trust God for your healing when you’re regularly instructed to buy the latest pharmaceutical miracle medication because otherwise you will surely be struck with some horrific disease! There is certainly a place for modern medicine and medication, thank God! I’m just saying we can set ourselves up for all sorts of problems when we primarily hear about all the brokenness in the world and we neglect the renewing of our minds.  

When, however, we regularly invest in our minds, there are wonderful benefits! One excellent way to renew your mind is to practice gratitude. Psalms 118:24 instructs us to declare: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Interestingly, as soon as you start to feel grateful for what you already have, more good things will come your way. That’s because our mindset begins to change. As we practice gratefulness, we train our brains to move in positive directions. And good things are found in positive directions!

Similar to the advantages experienced by breathing deeply for your body’s benefit, let’s look at the medical benefits of gratitude for your mind’s benefit.

  • Being grateful 15 minutes a day raises antibodies.
  • Grateful people are less vulnerable to clinical depression
  • Expressing appreciation instead of anger, frustration or worry improves blood and heart rate.

One woman expressed those benefits this way: “I began to put into practice the

idea of saying that this would be a good day the minute I woke up. And I can positively say that I have not had a bad or upsetting day since then. The amazing thing is that my days actually haven’t been any smoother or anymore free from petty annoyances than they were, but they just don’t seem to have the power to upset me anymore. Then every night I list all the things for which I am grateful, little things that happened during the day which added to my happiness. I know that this habit has geared my mind to pick out the nice things and forget the unpleasant ones. The fact that for six weeks I’ve not had a single bad day is really marvelous to me!”

I think she learned to turn the ship around! You can too! I challenge you to declare in the morning, “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Then, at the end of the day, think of at least three good things that happened that day. You will start to feel the difference, see the difference and you will find your mind on a different course – you’ve turned the ship around!

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2 thoughts on “Turn the Ship Around

  1. This article is brilliant in its simplicity. Considering that so many people are afflicted with depression and negativity, it is great to see so many useful tools listed in one blog. Note the following statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and then remember that the power to overcome negative thinking rests within ourselves! We need to put on a new mindset the way we eagerly put on a new Easter outfit!

    Did you know?
    1. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States, age 18 and older, or 18% of the population. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)
    2. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.
    3. Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s ADAA (The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60(7), July 1999).
    More than $22.84 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of health care services, people with
    anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses.
    4. People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be
    hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
    5 Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life
    events.

    Karen A.

    • Thank you Karen for this very helpful information about anxiety. I love your comment: “We need to put on a new mindset the way we eagerly put on a new Easter outfit!” Thanks, Barbra

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