Guest Post: Pastor Dan White
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV).
You can define mental, emotional, and spiritual strength by identifying the things that mentally strong individuals don’t do. Emotionally strong people have learned healthy skills that they have made into healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong with a sound mind.
4. Mentally and Emotionally Strong People Don’t Shy Away from Change.
Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.
Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Their biggest “fear,” if they have one, is not of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. An environment of change and even uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.
The truth is that you cannot avoid change. Things change. Friends leave. Bad medical reports come. Loved ones die. Life, sickness, and death doesn’t stop for anybody.
Routine wears like an old comfortable shoe. But, life can change in an instant. One moment, you are secure in your routine, your family, your job, and your situation. But the next moment, the bottom drops out.
In a time of change, it is natural for you to fear or even to panic. “What in the world am I going to do? What are we going to do now?”
The challenge of change can destroy you or develop you. Change taxes us to the very core of our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
You can react in fear or faith. You can sink into despair or dare to rise through courage – a courage that arises from beyond your inner resources. It is the courage given to us from the Lord.
Now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber.
Joshua felt courage coming from beyond his inner resources. Moses was dead. Now, he was the leader. It was a sudden change for him. He faced insurmountable obstacles. The Promised Land had been given to Israel, but it had to be taken by war. Joshua was called to be the general.
I see Joshua standing on the wrong side of the Jordan River, the West Side, with his knees knocking and wondering if he was up to the task. How easy it would have been to just slip back and be a regular Israelite! He may have even wished for that.
So in Joshua chapter 1, over and over the Lord tells him to be strong and of good courage. To fear not. To face the changes that had happened and to go forward into tomorrow with faith and trust in Him.
When change comes, fear can strike and leave you paralyzed. Immobile. Unable to move.
Take the Lord at His Word. “Fear not!”
Believe in your abilities to adapt. Abilities that come from the Lord through His power.
Uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.
In uncertainty and change, your best praying, your best resolve, and your best faith rises up into making and forming you into the person who welcomes change and uncertainty.
In 2015, change will come. Changes may come for the better or for the worse. And if they come for the worst, know that you stand on the Solid Rock. Your house is built on that Rock and not on the shifting sands of time. By faith, you will stand!
5. Mentally and Emotionally Strong People Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control.
You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage, traffic jams or other people. They don’t waste their emotional energy trying to fix the problems of other people. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their own response and attitude.
When you get down to it, there’s not much you control. You can’t control the weather, the stock market, or make the bad economy good.
You can’t control people. You can’t control the way they treat you. You can’t make someone love you or do right by you. You can’t run someone else’s life. You don’t have that kind of power!
You can’t prevent accidents from happening.
You can’t prevent your own death.
You can’t control God. There is nothing you can do that can make God do anything. Whatever He does or doesn’t do on our behalf, He does because He wants to. He really is the only One who has total control of everything. He is ruler of heaven and earth, and there is nothing we can do about what He chooses to do or not do on our behalf.
The list of what you can’t control is practically endless. Mentally strong people know that they can’t control much especially people. And, they don’t spend their emotional energy on what they cannot control. They accept their limitations and their powerlessness in their limitations.
But, there are a few things you can control.
You can control your response. Instead of complaining about lost luggage, traffic jams, or other people, mentally and emotionally strong people respond appropriately. They make wise use of their emotional energy and expend it with wisdom. They are cool, calm, and collected.
A controlled response is “a word aptly spoken which is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).
A controlled response is a gentle answer which turns away wrath unlike a harsh word which stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
You can control how you respond in a negative or positive way to inconveniences and to people who rub you the wrong way.
You can control your attitude. Christian motivational speaker and Bible teacher, the late Zig Ziglar, observed, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”
Since there is so little you can control, why spend your emotional energy fretting, fussing, and resenting people and things that you can’t control?
One way to control your attitude is to develop the attitude of gratitude. This flies in the face of your human nature. Your default position is to grumble, complain, and belly-ache about things and people that annoy you.
Spend your emotional strength on being grateful. Yes, grateful for those who step on your last nerve and grateful when things don’t go your way realizing that they are out of your control.
You can’t control that jerk who cut you off in rush hour traffic, but you can control your attitude with gratitude. For example, you can be grateful to the Lord for giving you the grace of patience!
So, “you can give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
You “can always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
And, you “can give thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Colossians1:12-13).
The attitude of gratitude makes you mentally and emotionally strong. Griping, complaining, and fretting makes you weak. Relinquish the idea that you are in control of life and accept that peace and strength come from two things you can control – your response to annoying circumstances and your attitude toward those who cause the annoyances.
6. Mentally and Emotionally Strong People Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks.
A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action. They’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action.
Risks or taking chances are a part of life. Every day you crank up you car and enter the road, you take a chance. You believe that you will safely reach your destination, but there are a lot of bad things that can happen to prevent you from reaching your goal. The car can break down. Another car can crash into you delaying your goal. Or worse, you can be injured, crippled, or even die in a wreck. But, you have to take that chance. A mentally and emotionally strong person takes a calculated risk that if they drive defensively, safely, and obey the laws; the odds are that they will arrive at their destination safe and sound.
A mentally weak person takes foolish risks. They rationalize that a few drinks will not impair their ability to drive. They rationalize that because they are under time constraints, speeding is justified. A mentally weak person takes a risk to drive the car too, but they have jumped headlong into a foolish risk that could end in disaster for them and for innocent people along the way.
Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong people always count the cost before taking a risk.
Jesus counsels you to count the cost before taking a risk. When large crowds followed Him, He advised them to count the cost of following him. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish” ( Luke 14:28-29 NKJV).
Mentally strong people count the cost before taking a leap of faith. This is true in regards to following Christ, making a business decision, giving away money, buying on credit, or in any significant venture in life.
You may have heard a preacher say that Jesus risked everything for your salvation or that the Apostle Paul risked his life for Christ. But these were not foolish risks. They were calculated risks with the full knowledge of what the worst case scenario could be. Neither Jesus nor Paul rushed headlong into the risks they took that cost them everything.
You should never take a risk if you haven’t counted the cost. Scams abound to separate you from your money.
Scams play on the emotions. In fact, Madison Avenue and government run lotteries play on the emotions. They want you to buy now without counting the cost. They play your emotions like a fiddle.
Religious scams do the same thing. They promise health and wealth by giving them money which is said to be “your seed of faith.”
Never take the risk of giving huge sums of money to religious scammers who promise that God will multiply your giving many times over if you will just write out that check of seed-faith. Writing a check to these fraudsters is an emotional response from weakness and need.
Yes, it is more blessed to give than receive. Yes, the Lord will bless you for giving, but the blessing will most likely not be in ways that bring the giver more money.
When you give, give expecting nothing in return. Give as an act of worship and thanksgiving and that in itself is a blessing. Give hands down instead of hands up.
Yes, getting in the car behind the wheel is a risk. But, it needs to be a calculated risk rather than a foolish risk. As you drive your car through the roads of life, risks are required. Make sure you have assessed the potential downsides and counted the cost before committing your time, talent, and treasure. That’s what mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy people do.
For mentally unhealthy people, risk comes from not knowing what they are doing. They haven’t thought it through. So, weigh the disadvantages and the advantages of the risk thoroughly before you take action rather than making decisions with just your emotions. The Lord gave you the power to reason as well as to feel. In making decisions that involve risk, your reasoning power will decrease the risk of making a foolish decision based solely on emotions.
The unknown road of 2014 is before you. Changes will come. Control only what is within your power to control which is your response and attitude. Make your decisions based on reason after weighing the benefits and consequences which will bring you mental, emotional, and spiritual health!
(Part 3 will be posted next week)
Rev. Dan White is pastor and founder of North Columbia Church, Appling, GA, and a free-lance writer who has been published in secular and Christian media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org