We have about 30,000 thoughts a day. Most of those thoughts are shaped by past experiences. Author Richard Rohr says that a majority of those thoughts are repetitive and negative. Our mind likes to 1)go against something and 2)have something to criticize.
But Psalm 103 says something different.
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion…
Psalm 103 suggests that our focus is to be shaped by remembering and having gratitude. Not that we want to forget our pain. Buechner says that one of the primary tasks of adolescence is to learn to be good stewards of our pain. It is important that we put those on the table, but that we see them in light of God and his ongoing work of redemption in our lives.
We want to think about what it’s like to remember good things and not be controlled by random thoughts. How often do you get discouraged by social media? Feel like someone’s life looks more exciting than yours? See a party you’ve been left out of? Read someone else’s tweets and think you’re not as funny as ________, pretty as __________ or any other self-defeating combination of thoughts.
You are going to have hurt. Paul says don’t be surprised when fiery trials happen. We want to talk about them and share our struggles. But he also says think on these things…
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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. 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.”
Filling our minds with something different than what comes naturally to us. That’s the reminder Paul offers in this verse. The Lord is near. In our hurt and our pain. As the song we sing so much at camp, Sovereign Over Us says, God turns those things for our good. He is near. And our call is to practice—to not let the random, negative, critical thoughts have control. But to think on and remember these hopeful, redemptive, lovely, true things He is doing in our midst.