You Have a Choice

I’d about take a bullet for this woman.  And I can testify, because of how she’s personally fought for me and generations of women around the globe, there is no better faith fighter, Word warrior, and soul defender than Jennie Allen. Every single hour thousands of ideas fly through our brain. Most happening without much regard on our end, and it would be easy to believe that we have little to no control over what we think. But that’s a crafty lie from the pit. We are in charge of our thinking and we do have the choice to take every single thought and submit it to Christ, and by doing so, renew our minds. This message of Jennie’s is absolute fire — because Jennie’s fought and won this battle and shares the secret to win the battle. It’s my utter joy to welcome the wonder who is Jennie Allen to the farm’s front porch today…

guest post by Jennie Allen

Ever wonder why some people seem happier than you, even if they are going through more difficult circumstances?

Maybe you have visited Christians in developing countries, thinking you were there to minister to them in their need, only to realize through their smiles and joy and selflessness that you were the one who had the need.

Yeah, me too.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, the greatest exposition on joy ever written, he was actually bound in chains under house arrest. Paul apprehended something we in our cocoon of comfort in the West rarely realize.

He understood that because we have been made new creations, we have the Spirit’s power and a choice to make. Changing our minds is possible.

We do not have to spin—because we know our happiness is anchored in something greater than anything we can see here and now.

So this prompts a second question: What are you looking toward to make you happy? Whether it is opioids or people’s praise, whatever causes you to experience strong emotions of either happiness or disappointment— that is likely the thing you are living for.

And it is very likely ruining your life.

If all Paul saw were his circumstances and his inability to end his imprisonment, he would surely have been despondent. But his circumstances didn’t dictate his thoughts.

It was his love of Jesus and trust in a good, loving, in-control God that consumed his mind and gave him purpose.

And the same power that raised Christ from the dead, the same Spirit that empowered Paul to trust in the direst circumstances, is fully accessible to you and me. Right now.

As we make the shift from debilitating lines of thinking to thoughts that are helpful and God honoring and wise, we can make the choice to be grateful.

We can be people who consistently and sincerely give thanks, regardless of our wounded pasts or the circumstances we now face.

Paul certainly made this choice, as evidenced by the fact that he was quick to express gratitude for the believers at Philippi despite the mind- boggling pain he’d endured. If anyone knew suffering, it was Paul.

In Acts 9:15–16 God told Ananias, “Go, for he [Paul, also known as Saul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

And suffer Paul certainly did.
In the book of Acts, we read that Paul experienced having his life threatened multiple times, being stoned and left for dead, opposition and controversy, being outcast, being mocked, being apprehended by a mob, betrayals, imprisonment, and so much more.

Had any one of these things happened in the course of my lifetime, I’d center my whole world on the event. I’d give interviews about it. I’d write a book about it. I’d craft talks about it. I’d tell everyone how bad it had been.

I’d cast myself as the victim, something Paul never chose to do. In what has been dubbed our “victim-hood culture,” Paul certainly would have stood out.

And what are we complaining about? Anything and everything, it seems.

I’m telling you, there’s a far better way—the way of gratitude.

God made sure to include a clear call to thankfulness in Scripture because He knows that only when we’re planted in the soil of gratitude will we learn and grow and thrive: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes 5:16)

In choosing the way of gratitude we refuse to be slaves to our circumstances.

My younger daughter’s struggle with dyslexia has brought this truth to life for me. Every day I watch Caroline wrestle with learning, with homework, with books and words.

And every day it breaks my heart.

I went to a dyslexia simulation last month, where for two hours I experienced what my girl faces every hour of every day. It was exhausting.

It’s not just that a word shows up for someone with dyslexia with the letters out of order and written in what seems like an incomplete font— friend looks like fiend or feirnd or fairnd or traned—it’s that those incomplete, out-of-order letters jump around while you’re trying to read them, making it next to impossible to sort out what the word is.

You get one word of a fifty-thousand-word book decoded and feel like a rock star. “Friend! It says friend.”

Sigh. Only 49,999 words left to go.

I got home from that simulation and made a beeline for Caroline. “You are astonishing to me,” I said.

She agonizes and wrestles and fights and cries, but she has never once given up. Yes, this is her quintessential struggle in life. But this struggle is not who she is.

Here’s the truth Caroline reminds her full-on diagnosed-ADD mama to grab hold of: we can observe our suffering without being overtaken by our suffering.

We can see it without becoming its slave.

We can acknowledge our suffering without abdicating our joy.

We can fight for justice but from a place of peace.

We don’t have to like our circumstances, but we can choose to look for the unexpected gifts they may bring.

Because we don’t find our identity in a cause, we are secure in who we are in Jesus.

And then there’s this: when we make the brave shift from victimhood to gratitude, we arm our understanding that God remains committed to redeeming all things.

Paul told the Philippians he was sure that everything that had happened to him had happened for a specific purpose. That purpose, you might guess, was to spread the gospel—God’s good news of love and grace.

By choosing gratitude over victimhood, Paul centered his thoughts on God’s purpose behind the pain.

He could focus on the impact of his imprisonment, which involved the palace guard coming to know Christ.

He could see that God would always be on the move, whether in his life or through his death, whether in his peace or in his suffering.

The ministry of the gospel through Paul was far from over; in fact, it was only just beginning.

But to see God’s good purposes, we have to focus our gaze beyond our immediate situations.

We have to remember that, even now, we have a choice:

We can choose to praise and honor God right where we are, trusting that we serve a God who is both transcendent and immanent—fancy words for saying that His ways are beyond human understanding

yet He chooses to be near us, to be with us, even in the hardest times when we cannot yet see how He could possibly bring anything good from our circumstances.

 

Jennie Allen is the founder and visionary behind IF:Gathering, an organization that equips women to know God more deeply and to disciple others in their own lives. She is the author of several books and Bible studies, including Restless, Anything, and Nothing to Prove. Jennie has a masters degree in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. 

Jennie knows what it’s like to swirl in a spiral of destructive thoughts. But she also knows we don’t have to stay stuck in toxic thinking patterns. As she discovered in her own life, God built a way for us to escape that downward spiral. Her brand new book, Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts teaches you how to renew your mind through Christ.

Jennie makes herself your personal trainer in these practical, transformational pages, alight with holy fire. She shows you how to take down anxiety, take back the mental high ground, and take more territory for the kingdom. 

Jennie draws on biblical truth and recent discoveries in neuroscience to show exactly how we can fight the enemies of the mind with the truth of who God is and who He calls us to be. Get of your highlighter, and get ready to gain the victory. You are about to get out of your head and get to where your heart has always hoped to be.

[ Our humble thanks to Waterbrook for their partnership in today’s devotion ]