We are continually tapped into God. He never leaves us. We have access to strength and peace at all times, even in the middle of really difficult times. Our thoughts determine whether or not we will have access to peace or suffering.
I love hiking. As I write this, I’m sitting on top of a mountain. Its mid-July, 85 degrees which is extremely hot when you’re hiking straight up a mountain with the sun beating down on you. As I hiked up this mountain, I experimented with my thoughts. First, as I hiked, I thought of everything bad and dwelled on these bad aspects of the hike: It’s bloody hot, The hills are brown, the dirt is dusty, I can’t breathe, my heart is pounding, I’m so sweaty, this is a crazy thing to do, I should turn around, my legs are burning, I’m tired, this hill is so steep, I don’t think I can make it, I don’t have to do this, I hate this hike, and so on. After about 15 minutes, I was ready to turn around. It was awful. My body responded to my thoughts and I felt like I was dying.
Next, I stopped and drank a little water and then started the next phase of my experiment. I changed my thoughts. I connected to God. As I began to hike up the steep, hot hill, I changed my thoughts: Thank you Lord for this body that works, thank you for this beautiful mountain, thank you for the trees, the flowers, and the birds. I paused and let the beauty soak into my soul with a grateful heart. Thank you for strong legs that work, strong lungs, and a strong heart. I can do this, one step at a time, I’ve got this, Thank you for this beautiful day! As my thoughts changed, I felt a cool breeze blow on the back of my sweaty neck. Thank you Lord for this lovely breeze! Next thing I knew, I was at the top of the mountain. The experience was completely different based on my thoughts.
During the first phase of the hike, there were beautiful trees, flowers, birds, and a breeze; however I didn’t have access to enjoy the benefits of these aspects of the hike. These bits of beauty brought me peace when I focused on them. When I focused on my suffering, the degree of suffering that I endured multiplied.
When I was first kidnapped, my thoughts went wild with panic. I thought, “I can’t believe this is happening, what’s going to happen to me? Is he going to kill me? Is he going to rape me? Will I ever see my family again? Am I going to die?” My heart was pounding so hard that I could clearly hear the pounding in my ears. It felt as if my heart would actually pound out of my chest. At this time, I changed my thoughts: How will I get back home? As I lay on the floor of the car curled in a little ball, I began to memorize where we were going so I would know how to get back. We’re going straight, stopped once, and stopped twice, turning right, stopping once, turning left, etc. I replayed these directions over and over in my head and focused on making it back home.
As I changed my thoughts, I had access to calming my heart and my lungs. My mind calmed so that I was able to think clearly to strategize how to stay alive and ultimately make it back home.
The thoughts that we think every day, determine the degree of suffering we will endure and when we control our thoughts we have access to our creator – who provides peace, creativity, strength and joy.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think of such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Jesus – Philippians 4:8-9