One of the chief prescriptions in overcoming bitterness is obtaining a transformed mind. This process, as described in Romans 12:2, is allowing God to change the way we think. It involves the practice of unselfish thinking.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
I have described this process as “Inward versus Outward thinking.” What exactly do I mean by that?
The best defense is a good offense.
Imagine a valuable jewel that you have recently inherited or acquired. If you casually keep it on your kitchen counter, unguarded and unprotected, you may be vulnerable to theft. Someone can walk into your house and easily take the jewel. However, if you take measures to carefully guard it, the chances of it being stolen are less likely. A thief will have much less success if you place your treasure in a safe deposit box in a bank vault.
We lock up our valuables, we password protect our banking data, we don’t walk alone on a dark street. We take offensive, protective measures to ensure our safety. Why? Because our personal information and money and bodies are important, worth guarding!
How much more, then, should we guard our minds and our thinking?
We need to view our thoughts and minds as equally valuable and therefore worthy of safekeeping. How we think determines the way we feel and consequently act. Proverbs 23:7 says:
For as he thinks within himself, so he is. (NASB)
I don’t know about you, but I have a great tendency to think of myself first and only. Are things working out the way I want? What do those people think of me? How I feel and what I want in this situation is always the default. There’s very little room in my heart and mind for unselfish thinking, without the power of the Holy Spirit at work.
But we do have the Holy Spirit and He is transforming our minds! And one way this manifests itself is through thinking of others first.
Philippians 2:3-4 tells us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Inward Vs. Outward
When I’m thinking inwardly, I focus on how everything affects me. My thoughts are about who likes me, who doesn’t, what they think of me, how they’ve reacted to what I said. I don’t belong here, I’m not appreciated, those people are judging me, I’m not as ____ as they are. I quickly turn to self-pity as I reflect on how I never had _____ like most people, I’m not _____ enough, I never get to _______.
Self-pity feeds on itself and turns into an ever-increasing downward spiral. People will often disappoint us by not being as interested or sympathetic as we’d hoped.
However, when my thoughts are outward and unselfish, my thinking involves loving others, being concerned for their welfare, and how they are feeling. I ask questions, I show interest. My thoughts are about how I can serve here and show love. Who can I talk to? Who can I bless? If someone is feeling discouraged, maybe I can encourage them by reminding them of God’s promises. What can I do in this situation to demonstrate the love of Christ to others? It’s not about me, it’s about them and HIM.
And this kind of thinking pleases Christ and builds up the body of believers. I am less likely to be offended or discouraged when my focus is off myself. I am more likely to pray for you and do all I can to spur you on to love and good deeds.
This principle can be applied to any situation: our home life and family, our work, our friends, our church. It’s extremely difficult to think this way if you are not in the habit, but over time it gets easier. Unlearning old habits and developing new ones takes time and patience!
And He helps us when we ask.
My prayer today: Lord, please help me to think the way you’d have me think, the way you’d have me love and live outwardly. Help me to love you first and then think about others. May I think and live unselfishly to please You.