One of the problems I have when a relationship isn’t going the way I expect, or if it has already gone sour, is I imagine all sorts of reasons why this has happened.
Usually my thoughts are negative and way out of proportion to the problem.
For instance, a friend hasn’t returned my text message and I start to think she must be mad at me, when most often it’s because she’s busy. Perhaps you do something similar.
These reflections are like damaging arrows directed at our minds and hearts, and aimed to change our sense into nonsense.
We do not want to give them the time of day so they form a pattern for our thinking.
And we do not want these ideas to lead to destructive behaviors in our relationships. You know the type of thing, when we misunderstand something and end up responding with a tactless comment that makes the friendship worse.
The Bible gives us a different perspective on these issues.
First, scripture tells us to see our problems not as a struggle with the other person, but as a spiritual battle.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
This instruction—to view our battles as spiritual—comes right after discussion about relationships—those of children and parents, and slaves and masters.
When Jesus had a problem with what Peter, one of his best friends and followers, said to him, Jesus responded by addressing Satan.
Peter took Jesus aside and reprimanded him for talking about how he would suffer terrible things, and be killed.
“Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Matthew 16:21-23 (NLT)
Jesus saw beyond an issue with his friend.
Second, the Bible tells us to renew our minds.
It says: be made new in the attitude of your minds. (Ephesians 4:23)
We may not be able to directly alter the other person and control the problems we are facing, but we have power to change the way we think about them.
Dr. Caroline Leaf in her book Switch on Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking and Health says how we react can have an enormous impact on our mental and even physical health.
Leaf says we can change the pathways of our minds and our thought patterns. We can wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy ideas.
Our challenge is to notice when negative thinking fills our minds and then to stop the feelings immediately. Do not allow yourself to dwell on these notions.
And the Bible promises to help us. It tells us to put on all of God’s armor so you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. Imagine holding up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil doing damage and pray. Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long.
Spiritual wars must be fought with spiritual weapons. And, prayer is our spiritual weapon.
See prayer as a defense against your negative thoughts, and a tool to change the direction of your thinking.
Dear God, help me to see my fight as not with the other person but a spiritual war in which you have given me the weapons to overcome the negative and have a new perspective. Amen.