Faith Thoughts are sent in by Dr Elisabeth Leembruggen from Holy Trinity Utrecht.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 1
It’s the new year. We often begin this period with resolutions, looking to create the ‘new me’, to change circumstances in our lives. Our desires, built upon our “Goede voornemens”, are sincere longings for transformation.
We start with great resolve to eat healthy, lose weight; complete that degree, be more creative, take more time for the family, learn a new skill, etc. Despite our misgivings—even if we think we’ll miss the mark—we make the commitment to change. This commitment to change is founded on hope: Hope that this year the things we say; how we act, what we choose, how we live will evoke the desired alterations in our lives.
Hope is ‘linked to the human condition’ and is seen as a ‘motivator for positive change in our lives, regardless of sometimes daunting circumstances’. It will come as no surprise then to learn that some mental health advocates see hope as a ‘therapeutic target’ in practice.2 Long before mental health practitioners established hope as a therapeutic goal, St Paul understood that hope, coupled with right thinking, works. He knew the true source of hope, even in the darkest places; whether in despair, in chains, isolated and alone in jail, or bickering amongst the ‘brethren’. He knew that hope and trust in God produces joy and peace no matter the circumstances.
St Paul had a method for achieving this. He knew how we think affects how we feel. He knew how we view the world has consequences for the actions and behaviours we take. He articulates how we can achieve hope and its long-lasting effects in our lives; and provides the mechanism that helps us reach our goals.
To my knowledge, St Paul was not a cognitive behaviourist. But his message is one with which cognitive therapy can agree. He states . . . 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. The operative word here is think. What we think about—that upon which we dwell in our thought lives— takes on a life of its own. Recent studies in neuroscience indicate that our thinking produces neural networks by which we act. Thinking directly affects our actions.
How then can we operationalise these wonderful words in our lives? Here are some practical tips:
- Practice positive self-talk. Speak to yourself in positive, affirming
- If something bad or good happens, consider what might that mean?
- What have you thought of doing?
- How do you think you’d act?
- What can you do to effect change?
- How can you prepare for eventual change?
Then practice the following:
- Visualise the change you [Visualisation]
- ‘Rehearse’ the behaviours you want to produce change. [Behavioural Rehearsal]
- Write down the positive things that are happening to balance the negative. [Positive Action]
- List the resources you know you have. [Positive Assessment]
- Make small cards which you place on a ring with positive affirmations about the love of God, the peace of God, etc. [Physically holding the cards and reviewing them makes the affirmations tangible].
- Review scriptural promises each day; promises which uplift you. [I will never leave nor forsake you; You are written on the palm of my hand, ].
- Create a ‘hope collage’, a piece of artwork cut out from magazines, etc., which focuses on 2
- Talk to a friend who is positive and supportive. Build up mutual hope with one
- Last, but certainly not least, use prayer and meditation to focus your mind and heart on the goodness, love and hope we find in God. 3
Try these. Here’s wishing you a very happy and blessed new year filled with hope!
- Romans 14.9 and Philippians 4.8 NIV
- M. Edwards. Hope as a therapeutic target in counselling, International Journal of Advanced Counselling, 38 (2), 2016
- E. Leembruggen. Religious & Spiritual Coping: Tools for Counsellors. Presentation at the International Association for Counselling, Malta, Europe, 7 July 2016.