Author and motivational speaker Amy Morin shared an article on LifeHack.org listing 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do a couple of years ago. Her post (and book by the same title) are primarily self-help, overcoming tips designed to guide readers in leaving behind defeatist habits and taking charge of their future and personal happiness. As I glanced through the list, it occurred to me that (whether she intended it or not) most of her points were actually admonitions based in scripture. While Christians shouldn’t be deceived in to believing that we can effect lasting change through our own efforts, we can benefit from these instructions as we invite the Holy Spirit to do His work in our lives. As a part of my retrospective on the 5 year anniversary of my blog, I’m reposting 10 of her suggestions and adding my comments on how these principles can be applicable to believers’ lives as things that spiritually strong people don’t do.
Spiritually strong people, don’t…
1. Waste time feeling sorry for themselves. (Psalm 43:5)
There’s so much negativity in the world today that it’s easy for believers to fall into the trap of thinking in similar ways. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we must continually lean on our sovereign God. A pastor I greatly admire continually reminds himself that nothing that happens to him is out of the control of the Lord. Because of that, he chooses to to see everything as coming from the Lord… the good and the bad. Embracing a similar attitude helps us to stop complaining and encouraging self-pity (Phil 2:14-15) , and to begin to look for God’s purpose and plan during our difficulties.
2. Grab for power. (James 4:10)
The world constantly tells us that the strong and powerful are the people we should admire and emulate. But, Jesus gave us a different view of strength. He said, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. (Lk 22:25-26) Instead of grasping for power, true strength resides in yielding ourselves to the Lord and being willing to serve others who cannot give back. When adopt this mindset, it’s then that we become the most like our Savior.
3. Shy away from change. (Psalm 32:8)
It’s impossible to know how many churches and/or relationships have been fractured by believers clinging to the desire to keep things “the way they have always been.” While Christians need to resolutely hold onto the truth of the Gospel, instead of giving in to fear of the unknown, we need to welcome every new challenge that God brings our way. Uncertain situations or different approaches shouldn’t paralyze us; they should spur us to seek out the guidance of the Holy Spirit and step out in faith in His provision.
4. Waste energy on things they can’t control. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Have you ever had an exquisitely bad experience with traffic and allowed it to ruin you day? Stomped through driving rain or had to endure the freezing cold and let it affect your attitude toward your family? Maybe you’ve spent a sleepless night or two being worked up about the nasty remarks of a co-worker? We’ll never be able to control our circumstances and certainly not the behavior of others. What we can always control is our response to annoying and confusing situations. No matter what others say or do to us, remember that God is always more interested in how we react to adversity than how quickly we are delivered from it.
5. Worry about pleasing others. (Colossians 3:23-24)
High school is notorious for being the breeding ground for peer pressure, but often offices and churches aren’t much better. Even as adults, we tend to value the opinions of others far too much and consequently, alter our behavior to court their approval. While it’s extremely important how we behave and interact with others, ‘people pleasing’ can have disastrous consequences. Spiritually strong people need to be genuinely kind and loving to others, but can also speak truthfully when circumstances call for it and not be crushed by disapproval. (Eph. 4:15)
6. Fear taking risks. (2 Timothy 1:7)
If you’re one of those persons who likes to play it safe and always be sure of the outcome, then a life of faith is not for you. Following God will always be characterized by varying degrees of risk-taking. Of course, we are completely safe in the Lord’s hands, but there’s a point when He will ask us to do things that conflict with our human logic and reason. It’s in these times that He stretches our faith. No matter what lies ahead, believers need to realize that the safest place to be is always in the center of God’s will. What the Lord leads us to do may not be easy, but when we step out in faith, we are assured that we are never alone. (Deut. 31:6)
7. Dwell on the past. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
There are some things in our past that we choose to replay over and over, don’t we? We grimace over wrong choices, wish we could take back those words or make other decisions. But mentally replaying scenarios with different outcomes changes nothing. Wasting that kind of mental energy just zaps our strength, and productivity and causes us to miss opportunities in the present. Believers need to learn to embrace the instructions from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-14. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” As we look ahead and rest in God’s sovereignty, we can purposefully choose to no longer be identified by our mistakes and things that can’t be changed. Spiritually strong people must learn to believe God’s promises and look for His hand to turn what appears to be bad into something good. (Rom. 8:28)
8. Give up after defeat. (Galatians 6:9)
Most of the time we equate defeat with failure, but God has very different ways of looking at our disappointments than we do. Growth. Maturity. Perseverance. Patience. These are high on His priority list and whether we like to admit it or not, failure is often the best tool to develop those qualities. The next time you hit a bump in your plans, remember what a respected Christian leader recently said. “God isn’t interested in making your life easy. He’s interested in making your life count!
9. Feel the world owes them anything. (Luke 6:35)
Our culture is very focused on who can do what, to whom and where. We bristle at the thought that someone could have a privilege or advantage that we might not have. But for believers, that’s the wrong way to think. We shouldn’t major on what the world can give us, but instead, our priority ought to be on what we can give to the world in the name of Jesus Christ.
10. Expect immediate results. (Psalm 27:14)
As I’ve read the Bible, there’s one thing that I’ve discovered…. God isn’t in a hurry! He waited until Abraham and Sarah were over 90 years old before He fulfilled His promise to give them a son, left Joseph unjustly imprisoned for years in an Egyptian dungeon, and allowed Israel to wander in the desert for 4 decades! But just because God takes time to unfold His plan doesn’t mean that He’s inactive. Scripture also promises us that the Lord is always working on behalf of His children. (Is. 64:4) So when nothing ‘appears’ to be happening, we can look with faith beyond our circumstances, always confident in the promise of Philippians 1:6. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”