Once when I was covering a Maths class for an absent colleague, I noticed a striking poster on the classroom wall. It consisted of a picture of a huge bumblebee with the following question above it:
“How does a huge, hulking thing like a bumblebee manage to stay airborne when it has the flimsiest of wings which you can see through?
I expected some sort of sophisticated answer underneath to do with the aero-dynamic interplay between the angle of its wings, the air and even maybe the sound. However, I was to be disappointed. The answer was as cryptic as it was simple:
…because nobody has ever told it that it can’t!
This certainly provoked me to think. It was directed at not only the pupils in the class but the teachers and teaching assistants too. Had I ever been negative in my attitude to a child’s ability, or discouraging of his efforts to the extent that he may have become demotivated and even give up hope in my class? From that day I resolved to try to build up rather than tear down. I aimed to bolster confidence with encouragement rather than deride honest efforts, which is very easy to do if overwork and tiredness are part of the equation!
There are parallels in the spiritual realm. There are many voices in our heads (some from media; some from well-meaning friends; others come from the devil, the spiritual enemy of the church). Whatever the source, we have the Bible with us to counteract such negative thoughts. Let us look at a few of these negative thoughts which threaten to pollute our motivations and invade our spiritual life.
1. “Will things ever be the same again after lockdown?”
Answer: the first point to make is that we are not promised grace to cope with things for an indefinite future period. We are promised God’s help for one day at a time – today. As far as the detail of what the lockdown holds for us or for society, we are not meant to know – until God chooses to reveal this to us. Meanwhile, He has promised to be with us Matthew 28v20b:
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
He has also promised to give us the words to say (and pray!) when we are engaged in spiritual battles: Do we hold God to this promise when we pray to Him? Further, do we dare to hold God to the promises He has made in His Word? It is not disrespectful to do so. In fact, I believe that, as our Father, He expects us to remind Him of His promises (and remind ourselves at the same time) and to pray them into fulfilment in our lives. After all, He longs that we, His children, show our humble dependence on Him.
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
There is positive encouragement to be gained from the Sermon on the Mount about God’s care and provision for us; the command and promise of Matthew 6v33:
But seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.
2. “I worry that my friends/ people at church / children / boyfriend / girlfriend / grandchildren (delete as appropriate) will grow cold towards me after not having seen me for so long.”
Answer: the most important relationship of all is the vertical one (between the individual Christian and the God who has saved and keeps us). That’s why the first commandment comes first:
Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Exodus 20 and Mark 12v30
This is ”agape” love, self-giving, in comparison to which all other loves are inferior. If we cherish and guard jealously this relationship, others will want to cultivate our company as we re-establish contact with them – whether through a screen or in person. The closer we are to the Lord, the closer we come to each other automatically. Colossians 3v13 says
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you .
Even when earthly relations fail or forsake us, we can still pray for them, asking the Lord to work in their (and our) hearts. Prayer can change not only circumstances, but can also change the perspective of the pray-er too! Perceived problems often seem very different after we bring them to God and ask Him to show us things from His angle.
3 “What if I have no job / business to go back to? What if I cannot keep up my mortgage repayments?
Answer: Let me stress at the outset that I do not want in any way to deny the reality of such fears in the present situation. However, we can learn from the Lord Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about how to deal with such worries. He points to the birds and the lilies. God has created them already beautiful and they have no need to worry (“toil or spin”). If we rely on the Lord’s provision and trust Him to provide for us on a daily basis, there is no need for worry. As already mentioned in point 1 above, we are to depend on God’s goodness towards us on a daily basis. The Israelites in the desert were told to collect the manna from the ground every morning and a double portion on the day before the Sabbath rest. See Exodus 16. This underlines the need for trust and for rest. Let us build in a daily time to stay in close touch with God. Let us resolve to live like people who are on the victory side, not like defeated foes. The battle has already been won for us by Jesus Christ at Calvary. It’s often in our minds that the battle is won – or lost. Romans 6v11 is very relevant here in keeping us focused correctly:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
So…. Fellow-Christian, what voices are being whispered in your head? If you are hearing any of these negative thoughts or emotions, bring them to God. Are you having doubts about your ability to continue on the Christian path? If you are having difficulty sleeping, and the technique of counting imaginary sheep is not helping you to get your 8 hours, then consider going to the Shepherd of the sheep and bringing all these troubling issues to Him.
1 Peter 5v7 says,
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
Maybe, though, you are reading this because it has been shared on Twitter etc and you are not yet a believer. You are troubled about current events. You are uncomfortable that there are seemingly no answers or guarantees any more about anything. Your confidence in your society and your life is under severe threat. There could be a voice in your head trying to silence your fears, urging you not to think about it. The Spirit of God may be troubling you to confront you about your relationship with God. You do not have the peace and assurance of experiencing God’s new life through Jesus. If you are troubled in this way, please do contact someone in our church via whatever social medium you are reading this. Do not hesitate; we are here to help.