“Elijah thought his problem was Jezebel, but there will always be a Jezebel in our lives. The real challenge is between our ears.”- John Ortberg
In Chapter 8 (“Think Great Thoughts”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg notes the effect of negative emotions. When negative feelings hit, “your mood dips, you lose energy, God seems distant, prayer seems pointless, sin looks tempting, and life looks bleak.”
But, Pastor Ortberg points out, our emotions never randomly descend on us. Rather, as a rule, emotions flow out of thoughts. In time, these thought become so automatic, we’re oblivious to their presence. John refers to this as “stinking thinking.”
However, it’s futile to attempt changing your emotions through sheer will power. Only the flow of the Holy Spirit changes the stream of your thoughts. Hence, Pastor Ortberg looks at two ways to open ourselves up to the Spirit’s work. John discusses the first way today.
1. Learn to monitor your mind. Mindlessness erects a formidable barrier to a flourishing mind. John defines mindlessness as “ruminating over my problems — a repetitive, anxious, dull, low-grade obsession with tasks and problems.”
Therefore, the spiritual life starts with paying attention to our thoughts. In Psalm 132:23, we read- “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”
Consequently, Pastor Ortberg suggests using the experience sampling method as a simple and powerful way to monitor your mind. Thus, at random intervals throughout the day, write down where you were and what you were doing. After a week, look for those activites and people that (a) help you live in the flow of the Spirit and (b) those that most block the flow.
In conclusion, John observes, “learning to walk in the Spirit takes at least as much grace and strength as learning to walk on two legs, and the Spirit will always help lead us toward God’s best version of ourselves.”
Today’s question: What current Jezebel afflicts your life? Please share.
Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “We’ll never walk alone down the Red Sea road”
Tomorrow’s blog: “A fundamental battle in the spiritual life”