What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled or uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.” ― Sen Robert Kennedy.
Having looked up the word madness in a variety of modern lexica, I was intrigued by the resulting interpretive meanings that I read. While most dictionaries described madness as a state of severe mental illness, the Merriam-Webster’s characterization really caught my attention as it also defined madness as behavior or thinking that is very foolish, unreasonable or dangerous.
At times it seems to me that we are living in a world which is being overrun by people whose thinking is very foolish, quite unreasonable and in some cases outright dangerous. Our modern culture appears to be suffering a bad season of madness!
Catch a news report on any given day and you will likely hear accounts of crazed gunmen randomly killing the innocent, rioters destroying their own communities as a form of protest, men and women fighting over bathroom rights, and the list just goes on and on. All of this madness can be worrisome indeed. Toss in concerns over flesh-eating bacteria, the latest global hot-spots; add a few natural disasters and, well, it’s enough to drive you crazy. At the very least, it can be difficult to remain a positive person in a world gone mad. So what can we do to endure as beacons of optimistic light and real hope in a very pessimistic atmosphere? Let’s talk.
America has entered one of its periods of historic madness, but this is the worst I can remember.” ― John le Carre
Did you know that anxiety disorders are one of the most common forms of mental illness in the United States? Some estimates put the number of affected people over the age of 18 at more than 45 million. One study claims that 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. is now considered depressed. The mental health community does their best to help people cope with anxiety, but sometimes science and medicine can do little or nothing to effectively eliminate the problem. This is especially true when the cause is not psychosomatic or physiological. “…he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:9)
It is perfectly normal to experience anxiety every once in a while. Who hasn’t had a case of the nerves before a test or when making an important decision. However, it’s not normal to suffer from excessive and unrealistic worry over prolonged periods. Simply put: consistent pessimism and harmful thought patterns are major contributing factors to both anxiety and depression.
I recently read that we experience anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 unique thoughts each day! For those possessed with a negative outlook on life, it’s a mental journey on the dark side. Staying calm, positive, and happy at all times may be an admirable goal, but it’s also unrealistic. It is fundamentally impossible to have nothing but happy thoughts, or to forever live in your happy place. However, learning to change negative thought patterns can lower anxiety levels significantly and help to ease some forms of depression. Remember, our thinking not only influences the way that we feel, it also plays a major role in shaping who we are as a person.
The Bible’s Older Testament Book of Proverbs (King James Version) makes this interesting observation:
7 “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7)
According to the sage wisdom of this (and other) Scripture, we are literally the sum of all that we think. Why? Because what we think is also what we believe and what we truly believe is what we ultimately say and do. And folks, you ARE what you consistently SAY and DO.
So let me ask you a question, what are your mental deliberations like as you duke it out with that still small voice inside of your head? What thoughts routinely fill your mind?
- The worries of day-to-day life?
- Emotional pain and suffering?
- Hurt feelings from your past that still haunt you?
- Physical aches, pains or ailments that you suffer?
- Fears and uncertainties over economic circumstances?
- Global “madness” in general?
If these are the thought patterns that predominantly populate your daily mental landscape, you may very well suffer from, stenchinitus intellectual – also known as Stinking Thinking.
We live in a society bloated with data yet starved for wisdom. We’re connected 24/7, yet anxiety, fear, depression and loneliness is at an all-time high. We must course-correct.” ― Elizabeth Lindsey
The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus defines the term Stinking Thinking as a bad way of reasoning that (1) makes you believe you will fail, (2) makes you believe bad things will happen to you, or (3) makes you believe you are not a very good person.
Stinking Thinking often leads people to feel sad, worried, and hopeless (i.e., anxious and depressed). I have learned that it is unwise to dwell excessively on all the negatives in the world – especially when we can do little to change most of them anyway. Instead, I regularly work to realign my thought patterns by focusing my attention on the things that are above my earthbound circumstances (Colossians 3:2).
Have you ever considered the possibility that everything needed for this journey we call life ultimately comes to us from the Creator of all things (GOD)? While he was here visiting the Earth, the man we know as Jesus put it this way:
32-33 “People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over so many things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6:32-33 MSG)
If I am reading the words of this great Prophet, liberator and teacher correctly, those who know (thru learning) how God works can change negative thought patterns by immersing themselves in the reality, initiatives and provisions of the Creator (God). Like it or not, anxiety can often be a tell-tale symptom of our lack of trust in Divine Providence, or at the very least a lack of focus on the things that truly matter (i.e., things beyond this temporary existence).
Once you become aware that the main business you are here on this earth for is to get to know God, most of life’s problems will fall into place of their own accord.” ― J.I. Packer
In Biblical times there was a city known as Colossae. Located 120 miles east of Ephesus in ancient Phrygia, Colossae was part of the Roman territory known as Asia Minor. It was also the location of a vibrant Faith community to which the Newer Testament writer Paul inscribed one of his letters. He told the followers of Jesus living there to…
1-4 “…Give your heart to the heavenly things, not to the passing things of this earth. For, as far as this world is concerned, you are already dead anyway, and your true life is now hidden in the anointed one. Someday, Jesus, the secret center of our lives, will show himself openly again, and you will all share in that magnificent final outcome.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
Paul’s instruction was pretty clear; do not devote yourself to the stuff of this earth. He reasoned that as followers of the Liberator Jesus, we are all dead to this world because our life now belongs to another realm. At present it is invisible to physical eyes, but one day what is now unseen will be grasped openly when the Creator makes His return trip to the earth. Paul went on to tell them,
8 “…dear brothers and sisters, one final thing; fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me, everything you heard from me, and everything you saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you”. (Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)
Truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, good reports, virtue and praise are not the thoughts upon which modern society is commonly focused. The news media, entertainment industry, world governments and sometimes even our spiritual and educational institutions do not evoke this type of thought pattern. Therefore, to remain positive amidst the madness, we must sidestep this world’s agendas and see life from a more eternal perspective. Refocusing our thinking helps us to change negative thought patterns so that we can enjoy a more optimistic point of view even as we traverse the often difficult times here on spaceship earth.
As we rehabilitate our thought patterns and focus more attention on what the Creator has revealed instead of what this present world order is encouraging and supporting, “…everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6:33 MSG) With the daily support of the Divine Spirit of our Creator, we can overcome the blues; deal with bad attitudes, solve unresolved problems, settle disputes, and calm our anxiety and fears.
Sometimes, the scariest thing you will ever have to do is trust God to fight the battles you can no longer fight.” ― Shannon L. Alder
Life is not always black or white. More often than not it is painted in many shades of gray. It would be much easier to navigate the modern madness if everything was either all good or all bad. Unfortunately, our everyday reality is somewhere in between. The immediate future is not set in stone. No human knows with certainty what tomorrow will bring. Learn to view your past “mistakes.” as teachable moments and as opportunities to do better going forward.
In the Bible’s Newer Testament book of First Peter you will find these very encouraging words,
7” Let him (GOD) have all your worries and cares (anxieties), for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
To me that is so awesome. The creator of all things (GOD) knows who I am. He actually thinks about me. Every detail of my life here on this little speck of an orbiting orb is of personal concern to Him. Since I actually believe this is true, I must then ask myself, “How can I justify perpetual anxiousness?”
Surrounded by madness? Yes my friends, it appears that we are living in a world gone crazy – yours truly has simply decided not to go there with the masses. How about you?
13 “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.” (Romans 15:13 PHILLIPS)
Selah (pause, and think about that.)
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656