In Growing Thoughts

   A lady said of a certain person who frequently had trouble in her spiritual life, "Her chief trouble is that her thoughts turn inward too much." In growing thoughts, like ingrowing toe-nails, are sometimes very painful. There is such a thing as focusing our thoughts too much internally. Wherever we center our thoughts we produce a reaction. Centering our thoughts on our own spiritual difficulties, on our own inner experiences and upon our feelings and sensations, is likely to produce an effect entirely different from that which we desire to produce.

  Dr. Stephen Smith, hale, hearty, and happy at the age of ninety-nine, said among other things in stating his philosophy of life, "War has killed its millions, but introspection has killed its tens of millions. Next to an ill advised and over plentiful diet it has shortened more lives than almost any other cause that we can name. The man who is forever thinking about himself is degenerating. The hardest patients I have had to handle were those given to introspection and self-analysis."

  Note those persons who are extremely careful about themselves in physical matters. They are always concerned with what effect things will have upon them. They wonder if this will hurt them, and how that will affect them. They are afraid of taking cold, and of this, that, and the other thing. They make living too serious a business. They are nearly always the victims of their own carefulness. The one who gets along well physically usually the one who uses good common sense and practically forgets he has a body.

  In spiritual things it is the people who are always taking their spiritual temperature, and looking at their spiritual tongue, and feeling their spiritual pulse, and measuring their spiritual stature, who have most trouble. Some people are constantly questioning their own motives. They are constantly asking, "Should I have done that?" They give microscopic attention to the details of their life. They are all the time asking, "Did I do right?" "Am I right?" Everything must have a thorough microscopical examination. The smallest detail of life must not be passed without attention.

  It is true that the Bible says, "Examine yourselves," but it has no reference to such microscopic examination. If we should be going somewhere and our foot would slip we should not take for granted that we had turned around and headed in the opposite direction. That one little slip is but an incident in the journey. When the path is observed as a whole that little incident only a trifle. The general course has been forward.

  Some people cannot sing the song of Christian joyfulness because they are too much absorbed in examining themselves. Neither do they feel like singing, for they are constantly finding little faults and magnifying them out of all proportion to their significance. We all know people who have ingrowing thoughts. It is proper for us to pay due heed to ourselves, but this ought to occupy a comparatively small portion of our time. Some people have so much trouble keeping themselves right that they never get anything else done. The trouble is they are making too hard a task of it. The' would be just as nearly right without making half the effort, or perhaps a tenth of the effort. In other words, if they did not make such an effort they would not even then go wrong.

  We need rather to be concerned to have sufficient velocity to produce a momentum that will keep us on the way. When I first started to learn bicycle riding it took all my attention to keep balanced, and in spite of myself I would fall over now and then. I soon became enough accustomed to riding that I guided the wheel automatically, and gave no more attention to balance than when walking. At first I was constantly turning the wheel this way and that. Consequently I made crooked path. That is why many Christians do so poorly. They are so intent upon keeping themselves right that they have their eyes constantly upon them selves. Let them look ahead, become intent on reaching what lies before them, and they will make real progress. They will not fall over nearly so easily as when they are so careful about themselves.

  In studying ourselves and losing sight of others we become morbid. We brood over our shortcomings or seeming shortcomings. We lose our courage. Things look dark and discouraging. We may say that Satan is after us, that he is accusing us. Most accusations have their origin in ourselves. We are accusing our selves. 'We are condemning ourselves and imagine that it is Satan doing so.

  There is a scientific side to this that we ought to understand. There are two parts to our mental being. There are many things that go on in our mind of which are conscious. We think certain things and know we think them. We consciously follow out certain lines or trends of thought. On the other hand, there is a part of our mind of whose workings we are unaware. This is called the subconscious mind.

  You have often noticed that a thought all worked out and complete comes into your mind apparently from nowhere. Or you are suddenly affected by an emotion.

  You cannot account for feeling that emotion. If it is a pleasant emotion, you enjoy it and think little about it.

  If it is an unpleasant one, you may be troubled by and wonder what caused it. The secret of the matter is, things have been going on in your subconscious mind of which you knew nothing. Suddenly what was in your subconscious mind was projected into your conscious mind.

  Perhaps a few days ago you wondered over something that happened, and questioned whether or not you were what you ought to be spiritually. That thought presently faded out of your mind. You thought no more about it. A week, two weeks, or a month later, you suddenly, and without any seeming reason, felt a sense of condemnation come over you. You wondered what caused it. Perhaps you thought Satan was at work. the only trouble was you did not understand that the thought you had the other day and had forgotten about kept on working in your subconscious mind and just now has projected itself into your conscious mind.

  This is the secret of much of our trouble. Those accusations you had did not come from Satan. They are the product of your own thoughts. You started the thought working, then got your mind off on something else. But that did not get the thought out of your mind. What shall we do to hinder such things from working in our mind and having such a depressing, discouraging effect upon us? When the thing comes into your mind that starts this train of thought, meet it with the assertion of victory, meet it with real faith. Drive it from your mind with some good thought. Assure your heart that God is with you and is taking care of you and that no evil will come to you. This will uproot the other thought from your mind and it will not continue to work in your subconscious mind.

  Remember, when you allow yourself to think discouraging thoughts, when you allow yourself to question your motives and examine yourself with such attentive scrutiny, you are loading up your subconscious mind with what sooner or later will come out into your conscious mind again to trouble you. Therefore, do not plant such seeds of troublesome thoughts in your mind. Plant thoughts of faith, of victory. of trust, of assurance, of confidence, and these will bear fruit that you will be glad to reap.

  We can imagine things about ourselves as easily as we can imagine things about others. Our imagination can be misdirected. Larson has said, "Imagination when misdirected can produce more ills than any other faculty."Many people are tortured by their imagination. Imaginary ills and imaginary foes beset them.

  Of course we shall have heartaches in life. Of course we shall have things we can hardly keep from thinking over. But we should avoid magnifying them. We should treat them with good common sense. Instead of lavishing so much time upon ourselves and trying so hard to keep right ourselves, if we turn our attention toward helping others, we find many of our own troubles cured, without any medicine. About two thirds of our troubles might be cured by forgetting them. Someone has written,

"If you were busy being glad,
And cheering others who were sad,
Altho your heart might ache a bit,
You'd soon forget to notice it."

  Most of our troubles are imaginary or at least nine tenths imaginary. Paul speaks about "casting down imaginations" (II Cor. 10: 5). That is something we should all learn. Do not expect of yourself more than you expect of others. Judge yourself by the same standards by which you judge others. God expects no more of you than he expects of others. He does not want you to be melancholy. He wants you to be joyful, to sing the songs of his kingdom, to have a heart full of praises. To have these you must turn your eyes to God more and see his beauties and perfections. Forget yourself and think of God and his goodness.

  The fruits of thoughts are feelings. If you do not think right you cannot feel right. Naturally when you do not feel as you think you ought to feel, you are reedy to condemn yourself and say, "Well, there must be something wrong." Yes, there is something wrong, but in the majority of instances that wrong is merely in your thoughts. If there is something actually wrong in your heart, wrong in your relations with God, or wrong in your relation with your fellow-men, you can locate that more easily. It is some very definite thing. It is not something that you need hunt for for days and cannot find. The things that stand between us and God, or between us and others, if they are worth noticing at all, are at least large enough to be easily discovered and are definite enough to be easily understood. The remedy for them is easily applied and its results are definite and easily known.

  We should understand clearly that those things that are obscure, that trouble us, that we cannot locate, and that bring gloom and despondency and discouragement, are things that originate in the wrong outlook, or in a wrong attitude toward ourselves. They are the fruits of wrong thinking.

  So let us get rid of our ingrowing thoughts. Let us get outside of ourselves into the sunshine of God. Then our hearts will become lighter. We shall see the goodness of God, and almost before we know it we shall be singing the song of the victorious life.