By Jodi Thomas
The last few months I have really struggled with negativity. Although I am an upbeat person, negativity runs pretty deep on both sides of my family tree. My grandmother’s name was Nina, but her nickname was “No-na,” since one of her favorite words was, “No.” So, seeing the optimistic, bright side of things often is a real effort for me. Some people are naturally happy and optimistic people. My husband is one of those people, and I am very thankful for it! When he thinks about the future, he is always hopeful. When I think about the future, it usually triggers anxiety. Perhaps it is due to my dysfunctional upbringing, past trauma, genetic predisposition. Whatever. But I do know one thing. . .it’s not who I aspire to be. . . and it’s not who God wants me to be either.
One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, 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 about such things.”
This verse talks about keeping our thoughts fixed on the positive. Why? Another verse says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” (Proverbs 23:7) Whatever we think about, we become. Whatever we think about, directs and guides our heart. Whatever we think about, we spread to others. Think lovely thoughts? Spread loveliness. Think negative thoughts? Spread yuck. I just read a very interesting book called The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. It states “The heart acts as an emotional conductor and radiates how you are feeling to every cell in the body via the heart’s electromagnetic field; this energy field can be detected up to 5-10 feet away.” Not only is what you are feeling/thinking affecting your actual body, but it is being broadcast—whether negative, positive, excited, calm, angry—to everyone around you.
Did you know that both complaining and gratitude create chemical reactions in your body? Negativity and complaining increase cortisol, your stress hormone. Gratitude floods the body and brain with positive endorphins and emotions. No wonder it says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing. . . (Philippians 2:14) and “. . . give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I have come to learn that God, in His infinite wisdom, knows what He is talking about when He gives us these instructions.
I have some circumstances in my life that are difficult that I often feel very negative about and certainly can be found complaining about. A good friend of mine—probably weary of all my complaining—recently gave me as a gift the book The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, the true story of two sisters that were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home during World War II. Ravensbruck was literally a living nightmare, and yet, Corrie’s sister Betsy, somehow through all the darkness, starvation, and abuse, was always able to stay thankful due to her unwavering faith in God’s goodness. In one instance they are assigned a flea-infested pallet to sleep on (with numerous other women). Corrie just about came undone. However, Betsy thanked God for the fleas, which Corrie considered crazy.
Yet Betsy trusted that God was good and He had a purpose. She told Corrie, “’Give thanks in all circumstances,’” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” Betsy stayed positive in the midst of a horrendously negative situation. So in the midst of fleas, the sisters freely spread the light of God’s truth and His Word at night to their fellow captives, giving hope to countless women in completely hopeless circumstances. They could never figure out, though, why the vicious and abusive guards did not patrol their sleeping area. The sisters later find out that the guards avoided their area solely because of the fleas. The fleas—that Corrie hated and dreaded—offered the sisters freedom and protection.
We all have “fleas” in our lives that we don’t like and that we certainly wish were not there. But may we be more like Betsy—giving thanks, staying positive in negative circumstances. . . trusting that God IS good and that He DOES have a plan. Not only will your positivity affect you but countless others around you. May we be the sunshine, and help make this dark world a brighter place to be.