Thursday, May 18, 2017
Hearts anchored in God don’t sink
Part 2 of an interview with Tracie Miles,
Author of Unsinkable Faith:
God-Filled Strategies to Transform
the Way You Think, Feel, and Live
Some days you’re floating through life and everything seems fine. Other days, you’re barely holding on in the midst of a storm and negative thoughts threaten to sink your attitude, steal your peace, and rob you of joy. But just because life is hard doesn’t mean your heart and mind have to become hardened.
Tracie Miles knows it’s possible to overcome a pessimistic mindset and rise above your circumstances to find the positive—by changing the way you think, feel, and live. In Unsinkable Faith, her stories and insights will help point readers to God’s truths so they can rise back to the surface.
Q: How is choosing joy, no matter what, different from a “Fake it ‘til you make it” mindset?
There are days when we are just not going to feel happy. Nobody can be happy every second of every day; it’s just not realistic. I do believe, however, you can choose joy every day. It will take some effort, but it is possible. We can’t just pretend our problems don’t exist or deny our feelings when we’re hurt or upset, essentially putting on a fake smile. But when we ask God to help us purposely focus on having a glass-half-full mentality, we start feeling more uplifted. It’s truly amazing what can happen when we invite God to change our hearts and minds and, in turn, our lives. Happiness and joy truly are a choice. We don’t have to live a joyless life unless we choose to do so. Circumstances don’t determine our joy; our faith and outlook do.
Q: Through what process does what we think become who we are?
Scripture talks about this. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” This simply means whatever we think about internally will have an impact on who we are, who we become and how we live our lives. Our internal thoughts drive everything we say and usually dictate our outward actions. What we think about becomes who we are.
I think many of us are under the impression it doesn’t matter what we think because nobody can hear those thoughts unless we say them aloud. However, our thoughts are literally what control our lives. Choosing to be the captain of our thoughts and transforming our minds to be generally optimistic becomes the determining factor not only on what kind of person we are, but how other people see us.
Q: While our thoughts dictate our feelings, which in turn dictate our actions, how do we cross over and begin living by faith rather than feelings?
The transformation must begin with prayer and surrendering ourselves to God. Of course, using the God-tools we talked about earlier will equip us for the journey. Living by faith instead of feelings is difficult, so that’s why it’s important to make our faith a priority.
Q: How do our thinking patterns actually change the physical function and structure of our
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in communication pathology, wrote a popular book titled Switch On Your Brain. In it she reveals that because we are constantly reacting to circumstances and events, our brains become shaped by the process of thoughts and reactions. If we think positively, the physiological aspects of our brains change in healthy ways that help us move toward a positive quality of life. Yet if we think negatively, our brains are changed in unhealthy ways, causing us to feel and act negatively and steering us toward a more negative quality of life.
Leaf also found people who regularly meditate on Scripture and have developed a disciplined and focused thought-life have increased intelligence, wisdom and a feeling of peace. I love how this research supports what we are told in Scripture repeatedly: We can transform and renew our minds if we choose to (Romans 12:2). For all who struggle with negativity, pessimism and even depression, this is good news! Although in many cases there are physiological reasons for depression (and therefore medication is beneficial and necessary), sometimes depression can be minimized when positive thinking becomes the norm instead of the exception.
Q: What are some of the “God-tools” available to help us fight for control of our thoughts and emotions?
Second Corinthians 10:4 (The Message) says, “We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” These God-tools are within our grasp to fight the spiritual war taking place in our minds. These tools are God’s Word, prayer, the prayers of others on our behalf, holy strength we can tap into, the ability to persevere, peace even when life isn’t peaceful and worship. All of these things equip us to push back against warped philosophies and the lies in our minds that do not line up with God’s Word.
Satan’s tactics don’t stand a chance against God’s power, but until we intentionally decide to use those tools to fight for control over our own thoughts and emotions, he will continue to have the upper hand in this battlefield of the mind.
Q: A strong theme throughout Unsinkable Faith is surrendering our fears and negative thoughts to the Lord. Is this something we can just do once, or is it an ongoing process?
If only it were that easy! In every difficult circumstance I face, I usually catch myself thinking something negative again. That’s simply human nature and the power of emotion. However, as God walked me through the journey of mind transformation, especially in the writing this book, I began to form a habit of noticing negative thoughts when they occurred and immediately trying to reject those thoughts, replacing them with something positive and more true.
For the whole year after my separation, I had to go back to God time and time again to ask for His help in controlling my thoughts. I would do good for a while, but then another problem or emotional situation would rage in, and my thoughts would plummet into negativity yet again. Thankfully, God is gracious to forgive us when we stumble, and He knows we are just human beings trying to survive in this badly broken world where it’s often challenging to think positively. The transforming of our minds is a process where we’ll never fully “arrive,” but when we commit to change and practice changing how we think day in and day out, we soon notice our lives are changing for the better. We become happier and more at peace than ever before. It’s a journey, but every step of the journey is worth it.
Q: You offer practical ideas at the end of each chapter, including journaling topics, actions steps and Bible verses for meditation. How vital are these steps to making lasting changes in how we think?
We can read infinite amounts of information about how to do new things or learn to improve on something, but if we don’t apply those tips to our lives and put them into practice, we’ll never achieve success. Just like anything new we set out to learn or master, we have to apply what we learn to everyday life practically. That’s why I included many practical tips, opportunities for personal reflections and ways to apply the book to their own life, complete with biblical backup. Each chapter also includes a powerful challenge to the readers to help them really jumpstart their new lives.
Q: What other resources are available to go along with Unsinkable Faith?
I have a wonderful study guide that accompanies the book and includes all of the challenges, reflections and chapter activities from the book, but also includes bonus challenges so readers can take their quest for optimism even further. The guide offers more room for writing and journaling thoughts and prayers. There’s a really fun activity for each chapter with background information about the famous people who wrote the quotes used in the book. They were all wonderful role models for positive thinkers who overcame adversity and allowed God to transform their minds and their lives. These bonus activities help the reader delve deep into their own thought patterns and feel encouraged that they too can change.
I also have a free 5 Day Optimist Challenge readers can sign up for on my blog, www.traciemiles.com. The challenge will get them started on the right foot in their own personal journeys toward living lives of optimism. There are lots of other resources available on my blog as well.