Monday, December 01, 2008

Perfect Peace (of Mind) - Part I

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” ~ Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)

The message of this week’s column is simple:

Don’t camp on what you can’t control!

There are three major areas of life that you can’t control: the past, the future, and other people. Let’s examine each of these a little further:


The past, represented by hurts inflicted by others and regrets over our own mistakes and misdeeds, has already passed! There’s nothing we can do about events that have already happened, so there’s no sense wasting our time and energy dwelling on them. Rehashing the past is like driving down a road and stopping every five miles to turn back around and revisit places you’ve already been. It’s hard to make any real progress that way. The same is true in life. Since we can’t change the past, the next best thing to do is to utilize the lessons learned to avoid the same situation and make better decisions in the future.

“Not that I have now attained [this ideal] or am already made perfect….but one thing I do – it is my one aspiration; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.”

~ Philippians 3:12-14


The future is represented by events that may or may not occur at some point in the future. Obviously we have no control over something that hasn’t even happened yet. Since many of the things we worry about never happen anyway, it behooves us to focus on living one day at a time.

“Worrying happens today but it’s always about yesterday or tomorrow.”

~ Joyce Meyer

In his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie encourages his readers to live in “Day-tight Compartments.” That advice originated in the Bible, as found in Matthew chapter 6, verses 25, 26 and 33, 34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Dale Carnegie further suggests that we focus on the 90 per cent of our life that is good instead of the 10 per cent that is bad. Another tip Carnegie shares for reducing worry is to busy yourself with making other people happy.

“. . .[T]hose who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

~ Proverbs 11:25b (NLT)

Not too long ago I came across a box of old books in our barn. One of the titles caught my eye, so I decided to dust it off and read it. The book is titled: "Be the Person You Were Meant to Be” by Dr. Jerry Greenwald. At the beginning of the book, Greenwald refers to a philosopher named Gestalt who addresses the subject of the past and future versus the present. Gestalt believed that a person need not “undo, work through, or otherwise eliminate the toxic effects of past experiences by delving into them. On the contrary, the deliberate attempt to probe into the past for this purpose simply perpetuates the destructive power of these obsolete experiences which belong to the reality of an earlier era of the person's life. They serve largely to distort the reality of his present functioning, his concept of his self, and his ways of relating to the world. . . .”

Dr. Greenwald states that while past relationships and experiences certainly shape an individual’s attitudes and ways of reacting in the present, “the letting go of those attitudes and behavior patterns which are toxic begins the moment one focuses his attention on the present . . . “

He goes on to explain that the goal of Gestalt's philosophy/therapy is to "melt the toxic power of the past by learning to focus on the present. When a person lives wholly in the now, the past with all its destructive effects recedes into the background of his behavior and loses its power."

“We over-exaggerate yesterday, over-estimate tomorrow, and under-estimate today. We compound our fears and frustrations by taking on the cares of yesterday or tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a good day if we do the right things today. So many times we are repairing instead of preparing. Don’t use today to grieve over the mistakes of yesterday or worry about the events of tomorrow. Live one day at a time.”

~ John Maxwell, author of Life Matters

To be continued . . .