Over and over God calls us into a deeper, more loving, more peaceful relationship with Him. His perfect love is sufficient for us, it heals the most painful wounds, it shines a light in the dark places, it gives peace to the chaos.
He draws us closer to Him by calling us to let go of fear and to focus our thoughts on gratitude. In Philippians 4:6, He promises His peace when we are prayerful and grateful, letting go of anxiety and fear. I use the term letting go purposefully. Our flesh clings to fear. Neuroscience tells us our brain is wired for survival–it is constantly scanning the environment for a threat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t distinguish between real and perceived danger. The only use for fear is real danger, and the incidence in our lives where there is a need for fear is (hopefully) minimal.
How then do we not fear when our brain might perceive it? One of the main theories that has become a widely used intervention in modern psychology is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The basic premise of CBT is that our thoughts lead to a feeling and our feelings lead to a behavior. When we practice CBT we learn how to intervene in a thought pattern and change the narrative that our brain is writing.
So back to scripture, in 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are directed to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. If only we knew how to get out of our own way! What would a thought that’s obedient to Christ look like? Perhaps one that is focused on love, joy, peace, and gratitude. Many studies in neuroscience have focused on the changes in the brain when a person practices gratitude. These studies have found over time the areas of the brain that relate to anxiety and fear begin to become less and less active, and the areas that relate more to joy and goal-directed behavior become more active. This indicates that we can change the physiology of our brain by focusing our thoughts on gratitude–exactly what God calls us to and promises will be good for us.
There are numerous examples of this correlation between what God so clearly instructs us to do in scripture, why it works in neuroscience, and how to do it in psychology.
Several books that highlight this connection have recently been published. Two of my favorites are:
- Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts by Jeanne Allen
- Winning the War in Your Mind: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by Greg Groeschel
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4: 8-9
Thank you for your blog. I have found gratitude to be a powerful weapon to fight discouragement and negative thoughts! God bless you! From Heidi