Imagine walking into a thick forest on a bright sunny day. As you enter these woods, there’s just enough light shining through the thick leaf canopy to illuminate a pathway. You can’t see the sun, but you know it’s there.
Now imagine that you were born in those woods. Since you were young, you knew there must be something beyond the forest because of the shafts of light coming in, but you’ve never actually seen the sun directly. C. S. Lewis says the Christian life is like this. He compares our lives on earth to living in shadowlands. We do not yet see God face-to-face, but we do see “‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.”1
Because we live in the shadowlands, and we do not yet see God or ourselves in the full light of reality, we must cultivate an eternal perspective in our thought life. We must allow the “patches of Godlight” rather than the shadows to inform our thoughts.
Let’s consider two ways in which we can cultivate right thoughts about our lives and circumstances in light of eternity.
We must allow the “patches of Godlight” rather than the shadows to inform our thoughts.
Trusting in God’s Good Purpose
God never does things accidentally in your life. “All things,” he says, “work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). The key word is “together.” Take everything in your life not in isolation, but together, and it all works for good.
Take everything in your life not in isolation, but together, and it all works for good.
If this is true, then we ought to live accordingly. We should make an effort to dwell on this truth, and when we do, we’ll find that anxiety, anger, and every negative response to adversity begins to disappear, because our trust will be in the Lord and His good purpose, not in our immediate circumstances.
Do you trust that God redeems what He allows? Do you trust that His purpose is being worked out in your life in every adversity and trial and circumstance? Then cultivate that trust in God’s purpose by “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Begin to set your mind more and more “on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
Identity in Christ
In addition to meditating on God’s good purpose for you, another essential aspect of cultivating your thought life is allowing what Scripture says about your identity to shape your outlook. Are you seeing yourself through God’s eyes—as a sinner bought with the blood of Christ, being prepared for your eternal home? Or are you seeing yourself through the world’s eyes?
Here are just a few of the many things He says are true of you, if you’ve placed your faith in Christ:
- You’re no longer condemned (Romans 8:1)
- You’re accepted, redeemed, and forgiven by God (Romans 15:7; Ephesians 1:7)
- You’ve been set free in Christ (Galatians 5:1)
- You’re no longer a slave but a child and an heir in the family of God (Galatians 4:7)
- You’re loved and chosen by God (1 Thessalonians 1:4)
By dwelling on what Scripture says about your identity rather than on what the world says about you, you will effectively rewire your brain to think in light of what God says is true about you. This doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, but with time and repetition.
For more on how God has specially wired us so that our brains are highly trainable and retrainable (even in old age), check out chapter 6 (“Rewiring Your Mind”) in Life in the Presence of God. You’re not stuck with the same thought patterns and ruts you’ve always had!
Here are a couple practical ways to cultivate your thought life on a daily basis:
- Monitor your thought life by meditating on Philippians 4:8. Call up these words (place them somewhere visible!), especially at times when your mind is tempted to shift into “neutral” or when you’re tempted to complain. Some other verses you might consider meditating on, allowing them to shape your thought life and ground you in a biblical perspective in every circumstance, are Colossians 3:1–4; Psalm 90:12; and Romans 12:1–2.
- Root your identity in Christ by reviewing this powerful inventory of statements about who God says you are from time to time (maybe even once a day) to remind yourself of your true identity. (You can pick one or two to focus on, or review the entire list at one time.)
In the next post, we’ll consider the fourth spiritual essential: practicing God’s presence.