Narratives: The way each individual perceives the world originates in the narrative they chose to believe. Every person has a highly active mind that feeds on information all the time. The mind then takes that information and creates a narrative that produces emotions. Often times, these narratives skew reality and force many to become fearful or worrisome. One such example would be what we call the negative domino effect. For example, a person wakes up in the morning with a scratchy throat, they grab their iPhone and run a quick search on Google about their symptoms. After clicking a few links this scratchiness sounds more serious than they first thought. With a little more research it sounds EXACTLY like the symptoms described as a rare throat disease. The mind then begins to go to work and creates a narrative for that person that they likely have a rare disease and they should worry. Palms begin to sweat as they drive to work. The mind tells this person, you are sick, you have this disease, over and over. By mid-day the throat feels a little better and then by the end of the day they are fine and the person realizes they just woke up dehydrated and in fact don’t have a rare throat disease at all. Not to diminish the reality of people who do get rare diseases, but this exercise is simply to display how many people will create rapid false narratives leading to extreme fears and worries. Most people would rather create their own story and never endeavor to find the actual truth.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” — Philippians 4:8
Controlling the Narrative: Paul constantly refers to the war of two natures. The flesh and the Spirit (Romans 7:14-25). We as believers know that God is with us and He will never leave us or forsake us, but our minds are constantly telling us, that in fact, we are all on our own and God has forsaken us. Our spirit and flesh will be at war like this until the perfect comes. But we can buffet ourselves to recognize the tricks our minds play and refuse to perceive life that way. Know that your mind will play tricks on you, but in the end you control what you believe. People who give into the rapid narrative of negative outcomes without facts, sadly, live in a cycle of torment. Their narratives are created from memories of when things went bad in the past and they say to themselves — Here we go again. If we keep telling ourselves the same story we will direct our lives in a way that makes that narrative a reality, no matter if it is true or false. Once you step back from yourself and look at your fears and worries from an overview approach, separate from the emotions you are feeling, you will see clearly what is true and what is not. Think for a moment how you give advice to a friend who comes to you in a crisis. For example, they might call you frazzled or crying at wits end and tell you a problem they are having. Maybe it is like the person we described above who had a scratchy throat. They call you in tears saying how the rare disease runs in the family and they just know they have it. In your perception, you think this is an overreaction because they don’t know anything yet, so you calm them down and tell them not to worry. After you finish the call you think to yourself, I’m glad I don’t overly worry like that. But this is because you are taking an overview approach to that person and seeing the reality of their situation from the outside. It is an overreaction, you can see this, but the person clouded in a narrative of worry and fear can’t see this. Moreover, realize that even though your narratives might not be extreme like worrying over a scratchy throat, you also have your own highly active narratives that drive you to dark places of worry and fear. Your are probably thinking about some of them right now. The key is to control your thoughts through the peace of the Word of God and learn to perceive the world correctly. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” — Psalm 23:4
Perceptions through the Darkness: Knowing that God is with you will bring you through the darkest places. Unfortunately, many Christians wrongly assume since God is with them they will never face dark times. When trials come they say, “Why is God doing this to me?” or “What did I ever do to deserve this from God?” People who say this early and often are those who are spoiled and wrongly perceiving life in this world. Fact — The perfect will not come until we leave this world. Moreover, as Christians, you better prepare yourself for the reality that the world will despise you, persecute you and fight against you. You will face trials in life. These trials will be internal and external. You will be taken to your wits end if you let them or you will learn to fear no evil and take comfort in the Lord. The clouds of darkness swirl all the time, even when people live in comfort. America is the most antidepressant pharmacological dependant nation on earth. Followed by Iceland, Australia, Canada and Denmark (ironically Denmark is also listed as the “Happiest Nation on Earth”). The point is, these are well developed nations with some of the highest living standards, yet scores of people are depressed, even in the “Happiest Nation on Earth”. No matter where you are, external or internal trials are apart of life. So if we know that darkness comes, how do we endure? We have to believe God. We have to stand upon his Word and perceive it as reality. Know this — God is with you, now, and until the end. Rest knowing that for eternity you will be with Him. No matter what happens, you are with Him forever if you confess Him as the Lord of your life. When the darkness comes remind yourself of these things. Don’t let one small problem or dark patch distort what you have in God. Having a bad day, week or month doesn’t mean you have a bad life. Facing a trial doesn’t mean you are cursed. It means you are like everyone else. Get past the distorted belief that everything in life will be easy and learn to endure in Him. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” — James 1:2-3
Making the Most of Life: Time is too precious to waste on the wrong narratives your mind will create. Learn to step back and ask yourself, Is what I am feeling justified, or am I perceiving this wrong? Be mindful that a siege is set against you and will try to burn out the clock of your life. Your days are too valuable to waste on exaggerated worries and fears. Live life knowing that hardships will come, but live life nonetheless. Take heart in the moments of joy and learn to endure the darkness, but always know that God is with you, now and forever. This is the true narrative of your life.