During this tumultuous year, has your mind felt like a wrung-out washcloth at times? Evening broadcasts no longer report bad news – they’re now reporting even worse news. Between COVID-19, shutdowns, endless political wrangling, hurricanes, social unrest, shortages of stuff like toilet paper, deli meats and even canned foods, we’ve been stressed to the max.
I’ve kept expecting a recall notice on 2020, but apparently that won’t be happening. So as we limp toward the end of the year, we cling to hope that 2021 will be a marked improvement over its predecessor.
What’s a person to do? How can we cope with such a barrage of bad tidings? I’m glad you asked.
Tim Kight’s a popular speaker, consultant and leadership trainer. I’ve never met him or communicated with him directly, but have appreciated his concise, thoughtful posts on social media. He caught my attention when he started consulting with the Ohio State football team, and I've admired many of his insights on leadership and life.
Now Mr. Kight is putting his own advice into use in a crucial way. Recently he posted on Twitter, “Here is something very powerful I have learned from having cancer and going through chemo: I cannot stop it from affecting my body, but I must not allow it to affect my mind. The mindset I bring to this battle is enormously important.”
I had no idea Mr. Kight is dealing with cancer in some form, but our family understands what that’s like. He has my prayers, and we can all benefit from his wisdom – even if our challenges differ from his.
Some years ago, he offered a simple equation that applies to work and everyday life, as well as sports:
E + R = O.
That stands for Event + Response = Outcome. In another social media post, Mr. Kight explained, “I do not control events. I do control my response.”
What profound observations, especially as we shake our heads in amazement at developments that have virtually turned 2020 into a B-rated horror movie. The many chaotic events – not to mention unique challenges in our own lives – have the potential to be devastating. The question is, how do we respond to them? Because, as Mr. Kight has pointed out, our responses shape the outcome.
Our minds hang in the balance. When hardships strike, we can have a meltdown, or we can strive to build upon the adverse circumstances to benefit from them. The Bible speaks about this in many ways.
For instance, in writing to believers in the ancient city of Philippi, the apostle Paul reminded them that inevitably, difficult times come. How were they to respond? “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). But wait. What? Always? How can we do that?
Paul quickly elaborated: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). When faced with adversity, we’re to turn to the Lord, entrusting those circumstances to Him. As we pass our burdens over to God, we can experience His peace, comfort and assurance – even beyond anything we can fully understand.
A key to doing this successfully, according to the apostle, is to determine to pursue right thinking even before bad times arrive. Then we can be confident that whatever the Event may be, our Response will be appropriate, assuring the best possible Outcome. He wrote:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
In a letter to a different group of believers, Paul gave an admonition to beware of allowing our minds to be improperly influenced by the world around us. He told them, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). Or as another translation puts it, "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold."
When we go to the car for an important appointment and discover a tire is flat, how will we respond? If we turn on the evening news and – as they are wont to do – the commentators tell us once again that the sky is falling, all hope is gone, how will we respond?
I’ve learned through experience that the best time to determine our response is not after something has occurred, but as the Scriptures tell us, long before the bad stuff happens. That way we can be proactive rather than reactive, thus ensuring the best possible outcome.
When an army goes to war, it has already undergone training and is properly armed for battle. We’re in a war for our minds. But it’s a war we can win – if we prepare our minds and “put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11), which includes an unwavering faith, a close walk with the Lord, a strong grasp of His Word, and prayer.