Have you ever known a person who just seemed to live under a dark cloud all the time; someone who, no matter how bright a day might be, is constantly scanning the horizon for the first sign of a stray cloud? I have known more than a few sincere believers over the years that could easily fit this definition of a chronically negative individual.
In fact my mother was such a person and, as a direct result of growing up in a home where the positive aspects of life were rarely stressed, I became such a person as well. I say this not to place judgment or blame; only to state a fundamental fact. By the grace of God and the blessed leading of the Holy Spirit, I was eventually able to turn this pattern around and now, thankfully, I am better equipped to create a positive atmosphere for my own children.
Turning around a chronically negative mindset, however, is not an easy endeavor. In my case, it required a complete sense of dedication and determination to confront my negative mental framework and to make every possible effort to intervene in my pessimistic thinking and consistently replace negative thoughts and explanations about my life with more positive, optimistic thoughts. In and of myself, I could have never done this. I needed help and a lot of it.
This help came in the form as promised by scripture. My assistance came from the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us, and I have found this to be quite true, that the Holy Spirit works to transform us into the likeness of Christ. If you desire to deal with a chronic sense of negativity in your life, you have to start with the Holy Spirit. Pray daily, more often if necessary, asking the Holy Spirit to intervene in your thought life and to empower you to become a more optimistic person. He can do it and he will do it.
If we go to scripture we quickly see that God intends for us to have mastery over our thought life. The Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, reminds us repeatedly that we are to focus on the positive aspects of life and be quick to stop negativity in its tracks before it has a chance to take root. Paul tells us that we are to cast down every wrong imagination and take into captivity every wrong thought.” (2 Cor. 10:5). The Apostle is giving us wise, sound advice here, telling us to avoid dwelling on negative thoughts and be quick to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. This is not rocket science, just plain old common sense.
Satan would prefer that we do the opposite. Our enemy would much prefer that we dwell on the negative to the point of obsession. The more energy we pour into the negative aspects of our thought life, the stronger this darkness will become. If we allow this to continue long enough, a “stronghold” will be formed in our minds and believe me, strongholds are troublesome and hard to remove. A stronghold is basically a “firmly fixed falsehood” that has been erected in our minds. A true stronghold colors how we view the world and how we react to the events that occur in our lives. Basically, a stronghold is a negative matrix through which we interpret life in a false, negative manner.
Joel Osteen refers to these vicious mental land mines as “rivers of negativity.” Commenting on the formation and tenacity of strongholds, Osteen says:
You may have dug a deep river of negativity and it’s going to take a strong will to change. That river wasn’t formed overnight, nor will it be redirected without some conscious, strenuous effort on your part. God will help you, but you are going to have to make quality decisions every day, choosing the good, rejecting the bad. Determine to keep your mind set on the good things of God. Start expecting good things to happen. Get up each day knowing that God has great things in store for you…..When you are going through a tough time in your life, even if you don’t feel like keeping a positive attitude – which at times you probably won’t – you should do it anyway, knowing that every minute you allow yourself to lapse into a negative attitude is a minute that God cannot work in that situation.
It is very easy to allow our thinking to grow negative when we are faced with difficulties and unexpected events. Still, it is at these times that keeping an optimistic focus is crucial. We have to recognize that the enemy is always on watch, ready to pounce upon us when we are at our weakest. As Peter tells us, Satan prowls about like a hungry lion, looking for someone to devour. We can put the Prince of Lies on a crash diet if we only keep in mind that God is there for us, especially during our difficult times. It is those people who can maintain a positive focus, even when life is not so good, that ultimately succeed. I.V. Hilliard calls these kinds of folks “maximizers.” Hilliard says:
Maximizers are those who possess the strength of character that enables them to keep believing, keep planning, keep thinking, and keep working to experience their full potential in face of less than optimal conditions.
Hilliard’s book Living the Maximized Life is excellent and I would highly recommend that you read it. There are many pearls to be harvested, such as:
Maximizers, like all people, eventually reach a “breaking point,” but instead of breaking down, they break through, which is a matter of choice.
The vital question becomes: “How do I learn to recognize chronic negativity in my thought life and, equally important, how do I intervene in order to make positive changes?
There are no simple answers to this vital question, but the fact is we can make those positive changes if we have a connection with our source of power, the proper technology, and a high-octane fuel to carry us forward. Our source of power is the Holy Spirit, the technology is easily understood and applied, and our fuel is faith. We will discuss these themes in Part Two.
(c) L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved