“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy .”— Leo Buscaglia
Have you ever worried over something you had no control over?
Or allowed anxiety to creep into your mind, distracting you from your goals and darkening the way you look at everything?
Then I read a story about a man who struggled with inappropriate thoughts.
The Technique for Controlling (Negative) Thoughts
There was a man who struggled with horrible, negative, incessant thoughts. This man tried several techniques to stop his mind from wandering into the abyss, but nothing helped.
Then he thought of a cousin who was a missionary in China, and got the following idea:
Every time something triggered his negative thoughts, he would make a habit of praying for his cousin in China.
The man reported that at first, he was constantly praying for his cousin and for China. Multiple times a day, multiple times an hour, even.
But over time, he stopped noticing the thoughts. They faded in frequency and intensity.
Maybe he was too concerned about his cousin in China to care about the thoughts anymore.
Or maybe his Adversary was too put out by the fact that attacking him with painful thoughts only created more prayers for missionary work in China.
Either way, it worked.
Two Birds With One Stone
Reading this story gave me an idea:
In college, I had a friend who was very sick. So every time I started to ruminate on unwanted thoughts, I would pray for my friend who was ill.
I turned negative thoughts into a trigger to pray for the well-being of my friend.
Like the man in the story, at first, I found myself praying for my friend all the time — when I was walking, biking, eating, etc.
Over time, I found the thoughts becoming less intrusive.
Not long after this, I also received the good news that the friend I’d been praying for was getting much better. In fact, she even came to visit, and I could see with my own eyes how well she had recovered.
Maybe I was too busy thinking about my sick friend and praying for her recovery. Maybe my Adversary was learning that bothering me would only lead to more prayers for someone else.
Either way, it worked.
Don’t Just Get Rid of Bad Thoughts
Jesus once told a parable about a man who had a demon cast out of him. But when the demon returned, he found the man’s mind empty and “swept clean,” rounded up a bunch of fellow demons, and re-invaded with his new buddies. (Luke 11)
The point to this story seems to be that when you want to get rid of something dark/evil/bad, you have to fill the vacated space with something good. Otherwise, the bad thing will just come back, and worse.
Sometimes the way to get rid of something bad in the first place is to fill yourself with so much good the bad has no space to remain.
If you want to stop worrying, change whatever distressing future forecast you are playing in your mind into a mental movie of gratitude and joy.
If you want to stop negative, intrusive thoughts, use them as a trigger to cue positive thoughts — particularly thoughts about care for other people.
It Doesn’t Work Unless It’s Applied
So the next time you find yourself worrying or thinking repetitive negative thoughts, turn it into a trigger to care about someone else and see what happens.
You just might find the negative thoughts lessening in intensity and frequency.
Let me know how it goes 😃