Prioritising Victories

Posted Dec 21, 2015 by Lorelle Ebens in Testimonies and Stories Hits: 373

It’s Friday.  There is a lot on my “To Do List”.  There is way too much to fit into one day!  (What’s new about that?) There is ironing, washing, sorting washing, making beds, cleaning the floors and the bathrooms. Then there’s my “to cook today” list!  (I was away for 2 weeks, and since I’ve been home I’ve been too busy for much cooking – so some nice food for Sabbath would be lovely for the family). There’s an order to do online, so I get the products before the year-end shut down of the company. There are a few emails that need to be sent. I need to go out to the Pharmacy to pick up a script and the Fruit/Veggie market for a few more veggies. And on it goes.  But I am so tired today.  The last week I’ve been “House-Hunting”.  We need to move further north to be closer to the University our older son will be studying at next year.  So the last week has been a constant round of searching the rentals online, phone calls, travelling, viewing homes, and then applying for the one we’ve analysed as the best for our needs. Yesterday my efforts were rewarded; our application on a home was successful and we feel very blessed.  What an exhausting week.  Now I’m fatigued.

Now, back to that “To Do List”.  How to sort out what can be done, what can’t be done, what should be done, what can be left undone – prioritising!! What a struggle this has been through my whole life.  It has caused an enormous extra burden of internal stress. Typically I would just get started on the “To Do List” and work ‘flat-out’, trying to get it all done – myself!  Multiple layers of internal stress occur:

  • Knowing there is too much to fit into a day, but trying anyway, causes me to be in a stressed state all day long – trying to do everything in as little time as possible;
  • The self-talk of condemnation (because you know it is stupid trying to “do it anyway” – but I don’t know how else to do this!);
  • Knowing that I should be getting others to help, but unable to prioritise so that I can work out what I need help with – another source of condemnation (it is stressful when you are so busy and help is offered but you don’t know what they can help you with!);
  • Feelings of inadequacy (“there must be something wrong with me”) about my lack of ability to work out priorities;
  • And then the big one – condemning myself for the decisions I’ve made – “you should have done that first, now you can’t fit this in!”

To think that all this stress is so un-necessary and I’ve caused it myself.  And this doesn’t just happen on Fridays, when getting ready for Sabbath.  It can be any time, especially when there is a time limit – for example getting ready to go on holidays, or getting things done before being out for a whole day.  Yes I have a lot to do because I have an autistic son.  Yes there are a lot of external sources of stress.  But I’ve come to realise that the majority of my stress, which has been a major contributor to any health issues I’ve suffered, is this internal, un-necessary stress. And it means that I am not in a state of trusting God.  I am not following the counsel of Philippians 4:6 “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

It’s great when God reveals things about myself in a new light – even if I don’t have the solution, it is good to be able to recognise and analyse the disordered patterns of thinking. I have wanted to trust God in every aspect of my life.  But there are patterns of thinking and ways of operating in the internal world of my mind that are preventing me from trusting God fully – and putting me out of line with God’s Kingdom of love, freedom and liberty.

These disordered ways of thinking probably start when we are very young children – Satan lies to us (either directly suggesting thoughts in our minds or words spoken to us, especially by significant family members) and we believe those lies.  These lies grow and develop and take on a life of their own unrelated to the initial incident where they began. They affect how we view our value in the eyes of God and other people.  We are held captive to wrong patterns of thinking.  But God is in the business of “setting the captives free.”

Jesus said, in John 8:32: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus’ mission was to “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” (Isaiah 61:1)

Recently I read a book by Dr Timothy R. Jennings called Could It Be This Simple – A Biblical Model for Healing The Mind.  I quote here from his book where he is discussing the issue of worthlessness in the story of one of his patients called ‘Jane’:

“One of the most common problems facing many of my patients is the sense of worthlessness... The greatest mistake people make when dealing with difficult feelings is that of accepting them as true... Such negative ideas reinforce the feeling of worthlessness, which when nurtured, matures into a well-entrenched false belief.  With this false belief firmly ingrained, the mind begins to filter experiences through it.  Experiences that support the distorted self-image get replayed repeatedly, further strengthening the feeling and belief of worthlessness. Meanwhile, the mind discounts and rejects positive experiences that should refute the false belief.  Jane was living in such self-imposed mental anguish. She felt trapped and didn’t know how to find her way out.” Timothy Jennings, Could It Be This Simple – A Biblical Model for Healing The Mind, p.86, 87.

Following our feelings, which shape our thoughts (our beliefs, values, morals and imagination) – we get trapped in patterns of thoughts from early childhood, that have us trapped in “self-imposed mental anguish!”

Now back-track a few months: I had a day when I felt really upset, frustrated and angry – but I could not really identify why I felt that way.  It must have been tapping into some anger and resentment still lurking deep inside about “life in general”.  I thought I’d dealt with that some years ago, when I realised that deep down I was resentful at my lot in life, and ultimately that meant I was angry at God for ordering my life the way He had.  I did some repenting, and changing my way of thinking back then.  Perhaps there was still some of this still lurking below the surface.  I wanted to be free from any resentment and anger towards God or any other person. Participating in a gathering at a “Feast of Tabernacles” time this year, I asked for a prayer of blessing, to be free from all the anger and resentment and anything else deep inside that would be putting a barrier in my relationship with God. If God would be honouring His appointed times with a greater measure of His blessings, I wanted to partake in the blessings He could offer me at that time.

Over the months since that prayer, I have been more aware of my “self-imposed” stress and “mental anguish”.  I have been able to catch the thoughts, and analyse them, and realise what I am doing to myself.  I had previously thought that there was just something wrong with me and I couldn’t get out of this state of mind.

Dr Jennings discusses the concept of catching thoughts and feelings and elevating them to the higher functions of the mind to compare them with truth.

“It is imperative to recognize the importance of the will.  Everything depends on the right action of the will because it is the part of the mind that chooses… Elevating feelings to the reason and conscience for examination and investigation in light of the facts, evidence, and truth, and then choosing to follow that truth will always restore order and bring peace to the mind.  The greatest battle is learning to value truth because it is true, not just because it feels true.” Ibid, p.88, 89

“Spiritual warfare is the engagement of the spiritual nature (reason, conscience, worship) to battle unhealthy feelings, lies, misrepresentations, passions and lusts that try to take control of the will and dethrone the reason. It is the process of using God’s methods to overcome the influence of our genetic weakness, heal our emotional wounds, and restore balance to our damaged minds.” Ibid p.98

In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul discusses this spiritual warfare – “pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

Dr Jennings goes on to discuss the mind being like a garden:

“Imagine that you have a garden one that you have faithfully tended and that now produces a bountiful harvest.  What will happen to your garden if you stop cultivating it? Will it continue to bear good fruit, or will the weeds eventually destroy it?

“In a similar way, our minds naturally bring up weeds – selfish thoughts, ideas, and conceptions.  It is Christ who works through the Holy Spirit to plant the seeds of truth in our minds, He then nurtures and protects the seeds, enabling them to grow in to the fruits of a Christlike character. By utilizing the Sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God, the truth) we weed our minds, uprooting the lies and false theories that keep us captive, and thus allow us instead to maintain a healthy and productive mental garden.

“One of the best descriptions of this process appears in Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages.

“The Comforter is called "the Spirit of truth." His work is to define and maintain the truth. He first dwells in the heart as the Spirit of truth, and thus He becomes the Comforter. There is comfort and peace in the truth, but no real peace or comfort can be found in falsehood. It is through false theories and traditions that Satan gains his power over the mind. By directing men to false standards, he misshapes the character. Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart. Thus He exposes error, and expels it from the soul. It is by the Spirit of truth, working through the word of God, that Christ subdues His chosen people to Himself.”  {DA 671.1}  Ibid, p.99, 100

So, over the last few months, since that prayer of specific blessing, I have been able to allow God’s Spirit to make me aware of my disordered thinking, catch those thoughts to analyse them with my reasoning.  I recognise that thoughts of stress, anxiety, fear do not fall in line with the promises Jesus made about how our life should be with the Comforter in our hearts: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27); “Be careful [anxious] for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6); “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7).  The Holy Spirit’s work was to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” and He is called “The Spirit of truth” and “he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:8,13). Therefore He has been at work convicting me of sin and unrighteousness.  And giving me the power to reject the past disordered thinking and choose new thought patterns. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)  His promise is then peace, joy (John 14:27; 15:11) and “power, love, a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7).

I realised this is the gradual, daily process of sanctification – bringing my feelings, thoughts and will in line with God’s character. Jesus' prayer had been: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth… that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (John 17:17,19).  Sanctification does not come in an instant.  It is a process, so it has taken me some months to gradually get more able to catch my wrong thoughts, analyse them and choose correct thoughts in the area of prioritisation.

We are looking beyond time; we are looking to eternity. We are trying to live in such a way that Christ can say, Well done, good and faithful servant. Let us live, every one of us, in that way. We may make mistakes; we may err; but God will not leave us in error. "If we sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." There is hope for us; we are prisoners of hope. Let us grasp the rich promises of God. The garden of God is full of rich promises. Oh, let us gather them; let us take them home; let us show that we believe in God. Let us take Him at His word; let not one of us be found distrusting God or doubting Him.  Let us be growing Christians. We are not to stand still. We are to be in advance today of what we were yesterday; every day learning to be more trustful, more fully relying upon Jesus. Thus we are to grow up. You do not at one bound reach perfection; sanctification is the work of a lifetime. . . .  {4MR 343, 344 and 3SM 192,193} 

Now, back to my “To Do List” today – I was too tired, from such a busy week.  And the burden of “house-hunting” was over, as we had been approved for a house, so my body went into a bit of “let go” mode.  There was way too much on my list to fit into the one day. I did pray and ask God to help me sort out how to order my day.  So I found myself deciding to do things that really needed doing first – like the online order & emails, the outing to the Pharmacy & fruit/veggie market, and the washing. Then I decided that we really didn’t need any fancy food for Sabbath, we could have some basic simple things to eat.  That would save me a whole pile of effort and time.  Now that that was all catered for, what time was left and what could I fit in?  Well other family members were able to sort the washing, make the beds, and help with the cooking & dishes.  And I then had time to clean the floors, deciding the cleaning the bathrooms could wait for another day. As Sabbath was opened, I realised today had been a major victory for me in “Prioritisation”!  The Lord had given me the ability to work out what was necessary, what could be left undone.  And in the process, I did not have my usual “internal stress”.  Praise God for victories gained from months of practicing choosing new ways of thinking that involve trusting in God.