We are days into this new normal, at least for now, and you have to be wondering the same thing I am: can I thrive during this time or do I merely have to survive? And if I CAN thrive, how do I even begin to do that when it feels like my walls are caving in, the world seems to be spinning out of control, and there does not seem to be any handles to grasp onto?
But what if the thing that matters most, we can actually control and not only can we control, but we can direct. The secret is the power of our mindset. But don’t take my word for it–take the Apostle Paul’s word. He lived in a prison for years, but he managed to not just survive but thrive. In fact, Paul not only thrived but he changed his world and even our world from the center of his prison cell. His secret was his mindset. Paul talked about how important your mindset is throughout his many letters, the ones written in prison and out of prison. Regardless of his external circumstances – he gives the same advice. In his letter to the Romans he says, Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2 – NLT)
Paul knew the secret to finding opportunity and joy in any circumstance was the way he thought about them. But don’t just take Paul’s word for it, allow modern science to back that up.
Dr. Fabrizio Benedetti and a group of researchers out of Italy conducted a study on the role your mindset plays in our circumstances. He used a group of patients who underwent and were recovering from Thoracic surgery. In this surgery, they have to cut through the muscles of the back and the sides so they can have access to the patient’s lungs and heart. An hour after waking up from the anesthesia, the crippling pain starts to set in. Dr. Benedetti and his team split up the patients coming out of surgery to receive Morphine Sulfate, the pain killer they used for recovery, into two groups. One group had a doctor administer the pain killer in person while the other group received the exact same pain medication through an automatic timed pump. While the patients all received the same drug, the same dosage, the two groups received different results. The group that saw a doctor administer the pain medication rated their pain levels at a four out of ten after 60 minutes while the group receiving their medication from a pump rated their pain a six out of ten. To further test his theory, Dr. Benedetti took the same approach with patients that had Parkinson’s, hypertension, and anxiety. The results were the same. The people who witnessed and expected the results from their medication found higher relief than the people who were not able to witness and acknowledge they were being given medication.
What does that tell us? Paul was right. Our minds are the most powerful asset we have access to in this season of time. The way we think and the way we see the world matters. The way we see this moment in time matters. So, how should we be thinking about this unique moment in history in relation to ourselves? Paul leveraged some principles that could be very useful to us at this moment in time.
Keep Perspective of God:
Paul started almost every letter with this perspective giving statement: “This is a letter from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.” Paul led his letters knowing that God had a plan for him. Remembering that God is in control regardless of how we feel does a wonder for our mindset. With the possible financial crisis in our horizon, how do you view it? Do you ask yourself “How are we going to make it?” or do you say, “God has always provided and I can’t wait to see how he shows up here?” Do you view your, at times very long, days cooped up at home with the question of how do I pass the time or what can I learn in this moment? When we see God in the right perspective obstacles become opportunities.
Practice Being Grateful:
In every letter, Paul expresses deep gratitude. In moments where he could complain he leads with being thankful. When was the last time you slowed down to just be thankful for what you have? Does our house seem to get smaller by the day? Sure it does, but do we have a roof over our heads? Do our kids wreck our focus while we are working from home? Sure they do, but one day are you going to wish they were around to wreck your focus? Stay present and stay dialed in even when life is chaotic. We are beyond blessed. The more your focus on that, the more you will feel that. Where you put your focus will dictate how you feel.
Paul Leaned into Relationships:
In Paul’s letters, you see name after name of people you may not recognize. Paul kept in touch with people even when it was inconvenient. Why? Because he needed people especially in his isolation. In his letter to Timothy, he asked Timothy to bring him a coat because he was getting old. Isolation is brutal on our mindset. Yesterday my wife and I had our first virtual small group and I was not excited. I had been on video calls all day, and this was just one more. But after our group met, I felt so much better after just relationally checking in with people. People are our greatest resources in this season. Make time to connect with the people you are quarantined with but also on the outside of your home too.
What can you do today to implement the three principles above?