Staying Afloat

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In a fascinating book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, the authors address, among other issues, the large increase in anxiety and depression among the youth in America. They conclude that much of it is caused by distorted thinking. Their solution: cognitive behavioural therapy. That intimidating term simply means learning to think in line with the facts. In support of this, they favourably quote psychologist Andrew Solomon: “Depressed people often stick pins in their own life rafts. The conscious mind can intervene. One is not helpless.

Though the authors are not Christians, their conclusion resonates with those who are. The Scriptures have much to say about the need to think in line with truth, and that disciples of Jesus Christ are to reject false, distorted thoughts. When we apply our conscious mind to truth, our hope stays afloat.

The apostle Paul, I presume, would give a hearty amen to much of what these authors advise. In fact, he might even accuse them of plagiarism! After all consider what he wrote to the Philippian church: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8–9). Note that peace results when truth is pondered. Truth keeps hope afloat. Elsewhere he reminded the Corinthian church that he was militant to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” and to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When afloat on the sea of life, facing fierce storms of falsehood, Paul applied his conscious mind and found help from the Lord.

Truth is the life raft that keeps the Christian’s faith and hope afloat on a sea of trouble. When the storms of heartache, betrayal, failure, confusion, the world, the flesh, and the devil toss us about, we are not helpless, for like Paul we can apply our conscious mind to the truth of God’s word. And as we do, hope floats. Rather than sticking pins of unbelief into our truth-fuelled faith, we hang on, trusting in the one who created the sea to calm our seas.

This is easier said than done, but it must be done! In these trying days, the Lord is providing us with opportunities to “think about” the truth and wage war against the lies that will otherwise sink our hope. Thankfully, we are not helpless, for the Lord has provided us with truth, as well as with fellow truth-bearers: fellow church members who can disarm us of our hope-deflating pins of unbelief.

Over the years, numerous friends have exhorted me to “think about these things” when I have wrestled with distortions of reality. When tempted to despair—when sticking pins in my life raft—brothers and sisters, in varied ways, have reminded me to think on what is true. And when I have taken the counsel, I have found that I was not helpless, and hence my hope has stayed afloat. As the apostle taught the Philippians, when my mind is put right, I am able to feel right; when I am able to think truthfully, I am able to live confidently, experiencing the “God of peace.”

Brothers and sisters let go of the hope-destroying pins of falsehood. God gave his Son to save us from our sins. Let us apply our conscious mind to this good news. We are not helpless; we are hopeful.

Staying afloat with you,

Doug