From the LYWB.com Team: Hi girls! You may remember Ginny Melby. She paddleboarded across Lake Michigan and lived to tell the tale. She wrote about that experience for our blog here. That post is really about God’s strength in the midst of our weakness. Ginny didn’t know it then, but she was about to face a challenge much bigger than paddleboarding across a Great Lake. Her dad has been recently diagnosed with leukemia. I asked her if she’d write about what God is teaching her in this difficult season. I know her words will encourage you as you face big challenges of your own.
When my life was turned upside-down with the recent news that my father had leukemia, I felt completely out of control of the situation, wishing there was something I could do to help him. During this time of uncertainty, it has been easy to let my mind wander into the unknown. My mom refers to these negative worries as “unauthorized thoughts” that we need to actively surrender to the Lord by redirecting them to Him.
My pastor’s wife recently shared with me about a time when she felt the Lord’s presence very strongly this summer. She was on the beach practicing what she calls “beach prayers.” She would write words in the sand to represent worries, fears, and concerns of her heart and pray through them. Then she would watch as the tide came in and completely washed the words away. Not a worry remained, not even a trace. What a tangible picture of how Jesus takes all of our heart’s deepest cares and simply washes them away until we are left standing in the sand with only the peace of His presence remaining.
At one point, she wrote the letters “RC,” which stood for Releasing Control. There is so much in life that we cannot control (circumstances, actions of others, etc.). After she wrote “RC,” she watched God wash those two letters away. Then she wrote “RC” again, which stood for taking Responsibility for one thing we Can control—our thoughts. I can’t change people, control my future, or heal my dad, but I am responsible for what I can do, and I can certainly honor God with the way I think. I guess you could say that our job happens between the ears. As I’ve watched my dad’s illness, I’ve wrestled with the question, “What does it look like to actively surrender my mind and thoughts to the Lord?”
I’ve learned to redirect my unauthorized thoughts back to the Lord. God designed our brains so that grooves are actually formed in the areas of our brain that we use the most. Paths are created between our brain’s “most traveled” thoughts. If we are constantly thinking negatively, our brain will automatically continue that downward spiral because it has become wired that way. But thankfully our brain can be rewired. We can actively form grooves and paths between thoughts that line up with God’s Word, creating an automatic upward spiral.
John Ortberg put it this way: “Each thought we have carries with it a little spiritual power, a tug toward or away from God. No thought is purely neutral.”
I bet that’s why 2 Corinthians 10:5 commands us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
But you can’t just focus on not thinking negative thoughts. If I tell you not to think about purple elephants, what will you think about? Purple elephants every time. You have to introduce a new hope! We can choose to fix our minds on being thankful—for everything.
While in the hospital, my dad wrote a beautiful prayer. Instead of spiraling into self-pity and despair, he has nothing but thanks to God—for salvation, hope, doctors, family, rest, books, meals . . . the list goes on. He has learned the art of gratefulness in an effort to not waste his cancer. He even downloaded Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book Choosing Gratitude and has listened to it four times! Practicing thankfulness has increased his awareness of the Lord’s goodness in his life, making him hypersensitive to blessings.
But my dad isn’t just thankful for the good things in his life. He sees how God is using cancer to draw him closer to Jesus—and he is thankful for it. I’d encourage you to keep a notebook of thankfulness. At the end of the day, write down just five things you are thankful for. Soon you’ll be looking for things to be thankful for throughout the day! Release to the Lord what you can’t control, and focus on what you can control.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isa. 26:3).