Saturday, March 18, 2017

Combating Negative Thoughts with Positive Ones

I am a part-time missionary at the Redlands Mission Office. Since I work among valiant young missionaries, and because we’ve sent children on missions and been involved as ward and stake missionaries; and since I have personally felt the taxation of worries, anxiety, frustration, and depression, I would like to share some thoughts concerning personal revival and restoration.

Outside the Redlands Mission Office

As missionaries, as parents of missionaries, as students, as employees, as children, as parents, we all have to deal with many challenges. As sons and daughters of God our Heavenly Father, and as recipients of the benefits of the Atonement of His Son Jesus Christ, we have been greatly equipped to face these challenges; but we must remember that we cannot do it alone. The Lord is always there, and the Lord has given us many helpers. We should not discount any of them.

First off, I want to express that emotions are normal. Do not be harsh with yourself because you have feelings. Our Father is not a God who is without body, parts, or passions; and, we are created in His image and endowed with His traits. Jesus certainly was not exempt from emotions. He carried with Him a great weight in being the Savior of the World. He was known as “A Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (See Isaiah 53:3) If we are to become like Him, can we expect to not have seasons when we are also affected by these emotions? Yet, He is there to offer us relief.

Because Jesus carried the weight of the world, you do not have to.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

What did Jesus do when He felt overwhelmed, when He was tired and drawn out, when the cares of the day rested heavily upon Him? He went by Himself apart in a mountain area to pray (See Matthew 14:23). After spending the day feeding everyone else, Jesus also needed spiritual nourishment and renewal; and He went to His Father to obtain it.

While we cannot always physically go to a mountaintop or attend a temple, we can always go spiritually and mentally there as we direct our thoughts and the longings of our hearts to the Lord.

Now Satan wants to cause us great grief and discouragement. I know that especially in my young life, he worked mightily to make me think improper thoughts and to dissuade me from faith and from joy. He still is at his mischief with all of us. He sits back and watches and assesses our weaknesses, and then it is his delight to tempt us and to try us based on those. He even did so with the Savior.

When Jesus was tired, hungry, and spent from forty days of fasting and being with God, Satan came to dissuade him from His purpose. Have you seen that in your own lives? Spiritual work is physically taxing. It is important to analyze carefully our Saviors actions (See Matthew Chapter 4).

Because Jesus was hungry, Satan tempted Him to make stones into bread. What did Jesus do? He quoted scripture!

“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Because Jesus was the Son of God, Satan tempted Him with the improper use of power. What did Jesus do? He quoted scripture!

“It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7).

Then Satan tempted Jesus with riches and glory. What did Jesus do? He rebuked Satan, and He quoted scripture!

“Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10).

Then in verse 11, a great blessing followed:

“Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.”

Moroni expresses the importance of remaining faithful in order to receive blessings. In the examples above, we witness Jesus being faithful three times. We know that He had to be faithful more often than that, and so do we. We may have to repeat over and over the same actions to show to ourselves and to the Lord that we are faithful.

“And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6).

My daughter who is currently serving a mission was promised by our Stake President that angels from her own family would be there to assist her at times. I believe that this blessing is valid for all of us as we remain faithful to the covenants we make and as we practice our faith in the Lord through humility, desire, and obedience.

Even more importantly, we are promised by the Savior that if we always remember Him, we will always have His Spirit to be with us. The Sacrament Prayers are an important thing for us to remember and review, not only on the Sabbath days, but whenever we need to draw on the blessings of the Atonement. (See Moroni chapters 4 and 5)

Second then, we must remember that our thoughts are powerful things. Though they may be persistent, we must do want we can to control them and to think proper thoughts. We can be more persistent than our thoughts. Again, we do not have to be alone in this, but should welcome the help of family, friends, therapists, medical staff, and most importantly the Lord. Our thoughts have the greatest influence on our emotions, our actions, and our reactions.

In Proverbs 3:7, we read, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Why is that? Because our thoughts determine our feelings, our attitudes, our actions, and even our faith. Our thoughts can lift us up or drag us down. But, we can follow the Lord’s example and turn to the Lord’s servants for direction.

How about this primary song? Hum Your Favorite Hymn

1. If on occasion you have found

Your language is in question,

Or ugly thoughts come to your mind,

Then here's a good suggestion.

Chorus: Just hum your favorite hymn,

Sing out with vigor and vim,

And you will find it clears your mind.

Hum your favorite hymn.

2. Before you say an angry word,

Remember you'll regret it,

For once it's said the harm is done,

And some folks won't forget it.

Words: Marilyn Price Adams

Music: K. Newell Dayley

This song was inspired by a talk given by Elder Boyd K. Packer entitled, “Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts.”

In this talk, Elder Packer said this,

"I want to tell you young people about one way you can learn to control your thoughts, and it has to do with music…

"This is what I would teach you. Choose from among the sacred music of the Church a favorite hymn, one with words that are uplifting and music that is reverent, one that makes you feel something akin to inspiration. Remember President Lee’s counsel; perhaps “I Am A Child of God” would do. Go over it in your mind carefully. Memorize it. Even though you have had no musical training, you can think through a hymn.

"Now, use this hymn as the place for your thoughts to go. Make it your emergency channel. Whenever you find these shady actors have slipped from the sidelines of your thinking onto the stage of your mind, put on this record, as it were.

"As the music begins and as the words form in your thoughts, the unworthy ones will slip shamefully away. It will change the whole mood on the stage of your mind. Because it is uplifting and clean, the baser thoughts will disappear. For while virtue, by choice, will not associate with filth, evil cannot tolerate the presence of light.

"In due time you will find yourself, on occasion, humming the music inwardly. As you retrace your thoughts, you discover some influence from the world about you encouraged an unworthy thought to move on stage in your mind, and the music almost automatically began."

I know that this may sound oversimplified to someone who is suffering anxiety or depression, but I think that it applies to all of us. This counsel was given by an Apostle of the Lord. By sharing this, I am not at all suggesting that you try to go it alone. We have many helpers in this world who are blessed with much light, knowledge, and truth. When help is offered us in a righteous way, and we are following the Spirit, we should accept help.

When I was young and I was trying my very hardest to think appropriate thoughts and do appropriate things, I found that while Satan could not reach me during the day, he would try to do so in my dreams at night. This is frightening, and I hope that it is not happening to you. But I do have some suggestions.

My suggestions are the same as those above.

Missionaries are especially busy doing the Lord’s work all day long. I would suspect that those who are dealing with fearful thoughts, or who are experiencing anxiety, frustration, or depression, may have the heaviest load during their nighttime preparations, in restless sleep, or during their waking hours.

So before you go to bed and when you wake up, make sure that you have a devotional time that you spend with the Lord in prayer and in positive memorization and self-talk. If you are working on memorizing hymns and scriptures, and if you are developing an “I can” attitude, you will feel more secure and healthful.

During your personal scripture study, pay attention to those verses that strike you as important and work on memorizing them early in the morning and before you go to bed. Do the same thing with the hymns that bring you peace. I am working on doing this myself; because I want more peace and joy in my own life.

These are the first ones that I am going to work on. Your list may be different. Let the Spirit guide your choices.

The Lord’s Prayer

The 23rd Psalm

Lead, Kindly Light

The Lord is my Light

I would suggest that you read and sing aloud, even if at times it is in a whisper. Your own voice will become a voice of comfort as you hear the encouraging words of scripture and hymns, and your will build confidence in your own abilities to draw upon good and uplifting thoughts.

As your choices become memorized and familiar, and you are finding that these reassurances are automatic to you when you need them, add a new verse and a new hymn to your morning and evening devotionals, and keep it up. You will have a repertoire of sacred personal material always available to drawn on for personal strength.

Also, allow yourself to have joy in your successes. Ammon did (See Alma 26).

“Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel” (Alma 26:16).

That brings me to gladness. Eleonar H. Porter teaches us much about gladness in Pollyanna. Pollyanna really wanted to receive a doll for Christmas; but, all that was in the missionary barrel for her was a pair crutches. Pollyanna’s dad taught her to look on the bright side of things. She developed the Glad Game and soon transformed not only herself, but her whole community.

We are told, “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (Doctrine and Covenants 59: 21).

Gratitude is that important. We need to express it in order to gain God’s favor.

The Lord gives us this promise, “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19).

So with your devotions to your Heavenly Father take the time to express your gratitude. You may need to do this both in your prayers and in your journal. Make sure that you express gratitude to others as well. Gratitude will make you feel lighter and it will transform you into a delightful person.

Finally, do not condemn yourself because of your weaknesses. The Lord would not want that. He is always there for us, with His hand stretched out still. His desire is always our ultimate happiness and success; and He is there to help us achieve that as we turn to Him!

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

My prayers are with you this day, my dear brothers and sisters. May you find the peace and comfort and rest that you seek. And may your service bring you joy! Treasure up those things that you will need to draw on. They will be a blessing to you, and you will feel assured as you obtain this promise and witness from the Lord:

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:26-27).

A Peace Rose

I must add one more important verse. Because after all we can do, we must let go and put our trust fully in the Lord. This one is found in Doctrine and Covenants 123:17:

"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."

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