20 My son, pay attention to my words.
Bend your ear to my speech.
21 Don’t let them slip from your sight.
Guard them in your mind.
22 They are life to those who find them,
and healing for their entire body.
23 More than anything you guard, protect your mind, for life flows from it.
Your thoughts are important.
How you think about things determines, in large part, the way your day goes: in particular, your response to situations and people around you. This is so much the case that a whole branch of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is based on the notion of challenging thoughts that aren’t serving us well. If we can change our thoughts, the logic goes, then we can change our patterned responses of stress, fear, and anxiety.
Though CBT traces its history to the early 20th century, the writers of scripture already understood the basic concept: our thoughts determine how we respond to the world. “More than anything you guard, protect your mind, for life flows from it.”
At this point, your thoughts may have drifted to preachers like Norman Vincent Peale, or, in this generation, Joel Osteen – those who subscribe to “the power of positive thinking.” While I don’t necessarily believe that we can overcome everything simply by thinking positively, I also know that there’s very little we can accomplish so long as we’re trapped in profoundly negative thoughts. God can’t show up where there’s no faith – we know that even from Jesus’ experience (see Mark 6:5-6).
When we are caught up in a cycle of distorted thinking, like catastrophizing (“Everything is a disaster!”) or self-loathing (“I’m a terrible person! I can’t do anything right!”), it’s very hard to see any other perspective. And when those ideas have taken hold, it’s very hard to want to do anything at all. Our thoughts can paralyze us. They can easily lead us away from life and into despair.
That’s why the ancient wisdom continues to hold true: “More than anything you guard, protect your mind, for life flows from it.”
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Today, pay careful attention to your thoughts. How often do you find yourself overly critical of yourself or others? Are you catching yourself spinning out doomsday scenarios for your career, finances, health, or relationships? If so, take a moment to ask God, and yourself, whether your responses are really in proportion to the issues at hand.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, be at work today to protect my mind. Help me to stay strong in my faith and trust in your goodness and love for me. Let life flow from my thoughts, that they might always lead me toward you. Amen.