What’s on your mind?
If we could sit down over coffee, would you answer this question honestly? Or would you show me your happy face? You know, the one we often bring out in public to make it look like everything is okay.
I’d truly love to know what you’re thinking. Because if you’re anything like me, your thoughts might be hard to control. Sometimes they run amuck with lies and misconceptions about ourselves. Instead of clinging to the truth of who we are in Christ, we replay the unkind thoughts and ugly, unpleasant musings.
You might reason, “They’re just thoughts—they don’t hurt anyone.” But I beg to differ.
The Dangers of Adopting a Negative Mindset
While it would be wonderful to have a warm, fuzzy identity in our own minds, the reasons to tame our thoughts far exceed the desire to feel good about ourselves. It may seem that our thoughts are harmless, but when we allow them to replay, we begin to believe them. And that comes with devastating and ever-increasing consequences. For instance,
- A negative mindset causes us to become overly critical of others. We are suddenly hard to please and those around us feel as if they can do nothing right.
- We begin to doubt our God-given gifts and talents.
- This causes hesitation to serve our church, our community, or even of family. We draw back instead of stepping forward to get involved.
- We succumb to the temptation to accept mediocrity instead of embracing the best God has for us. He offers more, but we convince ourselves that we’re comfortable with things as they are.
- A mental fog can overtake us, dulling our peace and joy.
- Discipline in our time with Jesus begins to wane, and soon we recognize that we don’t connect with Him the way we once did.
- Our prayer life diminishes and we doubt its effectiveness.
- We begin to overcommit and overwork, believing that it will help us “prove” ourselves.
- We shrink back from making new friends or deepening our existing relationships.
- It becomes hard to trust others.
- We lose sight of the reality of the cross.
When we believe the lies that the enemy of our soul whispers into our hearts, it becomes second nature to estimate our personal value on what we do rather than who we are.
Taming Your Thoughts by Trusting God’s Truth
What if our struggles in marriage are due, in part, to the personal identity we hold of ourselves? Is it possible that our relationship issues, our lack of confidence in parenting, our battle with the bathroom scale, or that simmering anger that we seem to always carry with us, stem from our habit of listening to untrue thoughts about ourselves?
What if we could break free and step into the truth? Imagine what could transpire in our thoughts and then in our lives if we began to grasp the full richness of God’s glory and see ourselves as He sees us.
As daughters of the King, we have a Heavenly Father who loves us—just as we are—and is the Source of our true identity. Yet, rather than trusting in the truth of God’s Word, we yield to the temptation to find our value in the things we do, in what we produce, and in the opinions of others. It’s time to stop the madness and embrace all that the Lord has for us.
Today kicks off a new series of articles on the blog that will point us to the truth about who God says we are. I believe that all women need to hear that they are enough. They are worthy. They are loved. It’s time that we stopped estimating our value based on our mistakes, our histories, the unkind words of others, or the lies of the enemy. Those things can’t define us. Only God can do that.
Will you join me for an exciting journey where together we’ll deepen our understanding of who we are in Christ? I look forward to meeting you right back here and unpacking the exciting and trustworthy truth of God’s Word!
Trusting in God’s Word,
If you’re married, you’re going to make relational mistakes. You’ll say the wrong thing. Maybe you’ll sigh at the wrong time, or hold your eyebrows in the wrong expression, or worse. However it comes about, there is 100% certainty that you’ll disappoint your spouse. Since no marriage nor individual is perfect, disappointment is inevitable.
The good news is, we can quickly overcome these times of disappointment if a marriage receives proper care and focus. Then, we can more quickly set aside suspicious or selfish thoughts with the assurance that there’s no ill-intent involved. On the other hand, when TLC of marriage is neglected, challenging times can seem nearly impossible to conquer.
I’ve seen too many of what appear as unbreakable relationships (marriages, friendships, and family relationships) crumble from lack of attention. The hard reality is, we can’t strengthen a relationship while simultaneously neglecting it. No relationship is protected from breaking down without intentional effort to build it up.
When Schedules Don’t Mesh
One of the most memorable seasons of neglect in our marriage came as we lived through shift work. As a patrol deputy, Mike rotated onto an annual 4-month period of swing shift (5 pm – 3 am) and our schedules were completely opposite from one another. That’s tough on a young family, yet typical in law enforcement lives.
When I’d get up for work, he was just reaching his deep sleep zone, so it was me, alone, getting myself and the kids ready to face the day.
I’d arrive home from work after he was gone for the night. It was me, alone, picking up kids from their caregivers, preparing dinner (often resorting to drive through), helping with homework, and getting ready for bed.
Much of the time I felt like a single mom. It wasn’t fun, but we knew it was temporary so we determined to muddle through. We had amazing kids, great careers, and above-average income. We had good friends who shared at least one evening a week with us. Truly, we believed we’d “arrived.”
We didn’t know we needed to take time,
just the two of us,
to cultivate our marriage.
And so we didn’t.
The more time we spent disconnected from each other, the more selfish my thought life became. Selfish thoughts bred more selfish thoughts that worked in opposition to a healthy married life.
And then, some of those relational mistakes hit us. Some big ones. While we used to easily talking things out, the neglect of our relationship had weakened our trust. We weren’t communicating effectively and had each become too self-centered. We needed to discover how dating could transform our marriage.
It took us several years to get back on track. We had to make some significant change, letting go of things we valued in order to protect what we valued most. Eventually, with the Lord’s help we brought friendship, trust and balance back to our marriage. If I can name one thing—in addition to prayer—that had a monumental impact, it was prioritizing our date nights.
It can sound so “high-school” to say we’re dating our spouse. But consider the history of your own relationship. When did you get to know your spouse? Did you have one 10-minute conversation over coffee and realize this was true love? Was a quick hello and kiss on the cheek enough to develop a longing for life-long commitment? We get to know each other by spending time together. By talking, laughing, planning and even dreaming together.
Saying “I Do” shouldn’t mark the end
of a dating relationship,
but the promise to continue it.
No More Excuses
Sadly, dating our spouse is one of the first things that ends when the honeymoon is over. Pressures of life (careers, kids, finances, and many others) often distract us from prioritizing marriage. The reasons for NOT dating are many:
- I see him /her all the time. I need some “me” time.
- We don’t have a good baby sitter.
- We feel guilty for leaving the kids after working all day.
- Who has time for a date?
- Cash flow is too tight for entertainment.
These are valid concerns, but also easy to overcome. The value of dating is not entertainment, it’s the investment of time into our relationships. It’s growing closer in friendship, trust, and communication. It’s the process of showing that you value and esteem each other.
How Dating Can Transform Your Marriage
After years of a very rough road in our marriage, a breakthrough came when we learned to laugh together again. We considered ourselves friends anew and romance sparked from there.
Dating remains one of our go-to marriage solutions. When communication begins to misfire (and it still does), we carve out time to spend alone. Our schedules remain untraditional and hard to manage, so we get creative with our time.
We meet for breakfast or sit outside to share morning coffee. We squeeze in lunch together whenever possible. A date can look like dinner out or a few hands of a card game at our kitchen table and can occur at any time of day or night. When Mike isn’t due home until very late in the evening, I take a short nap during the day so I’ll have the energy to spend time with him. Part of the fun of dating is finding inventive ways to sneak away together.
Dating is transformational. It reconnects us. Investing time in each other breaks down any walls of ill assumptions. It helps us re-center our focus on what matters most: God and our family. If Mike and I weren’t willing to continually invest in strengthening trust and connection, we’d have given up long ago. Instead, a series of dates helped (and continues to help) change our thought patterns and transform our marriage. I believe that with the right mindset and a focus on honoring the Lord, dating is effective enough to bring positive strides in any marriage.
I encourage you to get creative and break down the barriers that have quenched your old dating habits. Schedule a date night and spend some time laughing and connecting with your spouse. You’ll find the investment will pay priceless dividends.
May you find God’s joy in your marriage,
Marriages are facing trials and challenges like never before. The enemy of our souls continues to rise up and attack our homes and families. Some wonder whether any marriage can survive.
The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Marriages can survive. Not only that, they can thrive and flourish. And prayer is a key that unlocks doors of hope and possibility.
When your marriage is troubled, praying Scripture can break through barriers that you never dreamed. We don’t always know what to pray when we feel broken and healing looks impossible.
To celebrate over 3 decades of marriage, author Cathy McIntosh offers 31 Specific Prayers for Your Marriage. It’s a prayer devotional specifically for marriage. Inside, Cathy shares her passion and encouragement to pray fervently for marriage relationships.
Proven, Miraculous Results
During a season when her own marriage nearly crumbled. The Lord prompted both she and her husband, independently, to pray. The results that followed were nothing short of miraculous. Looking back over more than 30 years, Cathy is humbled and grateful that their marriage has not only survived but has thrived. She attributes the victory to God and to fervent prayer.
Each of the 31 daily marriage devotions provides a Bible passage or two to focus on God’s truth, a specific prayer based on the Scriptures, and a simple step of faith to encourage tangible action in your journey of prayer. By engaging with this prayer devotional, your marriage and relationships will see blessings through:
- a refreshed closeness to the Lord
- developing a strong practice of prayer
- softening your heart toward your spouse
- strengthening your marriage relationship
Use it as a daily devotional, shared prayer time for couples, or take your time and savor the experience by pouring yourself into the prayer and suggested steps of faith. 31 Specific Prayers for Your Marriage is available now with immediate download. Follow this link to discover more and make a purchase: https://cathymcintosh.com/product/prayer-devotional-for-marriage/
Get Instant Access Here!
Let’s be honest. Matrimony sometimes feels like a place of discouragement and disappointment.
Marriage was created by God as an institution of security, love, friendship, and lifetime partnership. But anyone who’s married knows it doesn’t always fit such descriptions.
When struggles arise, as they do in any marriage, it’s common to sense anxiety rising. In the past, I have worried that I was failing to be a good wife or provide what my husband needed. At times I felt nervous thinking perhaps our marriage wouldn’t survive and that my kids would grow up with divorced parents. I have felt the anxiety of financial concerns and the burden of caring for our home and family while working full time.
There’s no doubt about it. Marriage can generate mountains of stress if we allow it to. I spent years allowing thoughts of “maybe” and “what if” cause more anxiety in my marriage than I care to admit.
Navigating Fear and Insecurity
It’s easy to see, now, how I worried to excess and allowed my tendency of overthinking rob me of peace and joy in my marriage. Looking back, I realize that I didn’t have the tools I needed to navigate my own fears and insecurities. In my early marriage, I was just learning to follow the Lord and didn’t understand the concept of surrender.
I received wise counsel such as “just give it to God,” or “let go and let God work it out.” But I had no idea how to put those phrases into practice. Truth be told, I didn’t even have an effective prayer life at that time. In church, I heard that God would help us but in the reality of my daily struggles, I couldn’t see evidence of His aid or comfort.
I didn’t know how to talk to my husband about what I was feeling. Communicating my insecurities was a terrifying thought. After all, I might find that each one was completely true, and then where would I be? So, I suppressed my worry and provided an environment in my thought life for anxiety to flourish.
That wasn’t fun for anyone.
The Truth of God’s Word
I had to learn to rely on God’s Word and allow its truth to fill my heart and mind. In doing so, I discovered the calming and peaceful impact that Scripture could have on my daily life.
My husband and I reached a point in our relationship where we separated. It was there, alone in different homes, that each of us began to pray. In our division, at last, God led us to an incredible act of unity. As we started to pray for each other, for our marriage, and ourselves, God revealed His nearness and unceasing activity in our lives.
Prayer delivered such peace and calm to my anxious heart that I could finally begin to see the future of joy and fulfillment that lay ahead. It restored my hope and taught me how to lay my concerns at the foot of the cross, surrendering worry and anxiety to the Lord. Through His goodness and power, God restored our relationship and brought wholeness that we’d never experienced.
That was twenty-five years ago. And with God’s help, we have enjoyed and thrived in a peace-filled marriage.
Praying Scripture for Your Marriage
In celebration of God’s goodness and aiming to help others calm anxiety in their own marriages, I created a 31-day prayer devotional for marriage. Each day provides Scriptures with prayer guidance that will invite the Lord to do a mighty work in your relationship.
The impact that these Scriptures have had on our marriage is nearly indescribable. We’ve transitioned from struggling and considering divorce to a fulfilling life-long commitment with open communication and unwavering trust for one another.
31 Specific Prayers for Your Marriage is more than just a list of Scriptures. It provides practical application pointers and hands-on guidance for growth in your prayer life. I believe, wholeheartedly, that it can help calm anxiety and stress in your marriage. It certainly had a God-sized impact in mine.
May you feel the Lord’s nearness today,
Seven days of calming anxiety. I certainly need the wisdom we’re learning together, and I pray this is a meaningful and inspirational series for you. Each post in the series turned to Scripture to embrace its truth and allow it to help point our minds to the authentic Source of our peace.
Recapping Our Journey
Calm Anxiety with God’s Power—2 Timothy 1:7
How to Calm Anxiety and Find Sleep—Psalm 4:8 and Proverbs 3:24
Finding Peace Through Humility—1 Peter 5:6-7
Calming Anxiety Through Gratitude—Philippians 4:6-7
Calming Anxiety Through Surrender—Isaiah 41:10
Calm Anxiety with Focus on Christ—Isaiah 26:3
Hope for Today
Today’s anxiety-calming Scripture is one that, at its surface, almost sounds too good to be true.
Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me (HCSB).
At times, it seems these words of Jesus are oversimplified. How do we gain freedom from a troubled heart by simply believing? Through prayer and in considering the depth of His profound statement, God gives me a glimpse of His powerful intent for these words.
If we desire freedom from a troubled heart, we must believe in God and His Son. Before this instruction can have the powerful impact they’re capable of, it’s important to analyze our belief.
During personal periods of hardship and anxious thinking, I have adopted some errant ideas about the Lord. They clouded what the Bible teaches is true about the living God. For example, when experiencing past trials:
I’ve believed God was no longer for me,
Or that He stopped caring about the people I love.
In the past, I’ve believed that my sin was too great to be covered by the blood of Jesus,
And that I was too disgraceful to receive forgiveness.
I believed that the Lord abandoned me
Or that I was being punished.
Each statement is completely untrue. If I believe false truths about Jesus, I have no hope in calming or overcoming anxiety.
Calm Anxiety With the Truth of God
In order to calm my troubled heart, I must believe the truth about God and that truth is found in His Word.
When I believe that His love covers a multitude of sins, including my own, then I receive hope for a blessed future walking in the Lord’s favor. (See 1 Peter 4:8).
By believing that He is a loving Father, I can embrace my identity as His child and know that He is for me. Whatever struggles He allows into my life are filtered through His loving kindness. (See 1 John 3:1).
With the belief that God has a good plan for His children, I can rest in the knowledge that He is always working for my good and His glory. (See Jeremiah 29:11).
It’s not enough to believe in a God about whom I’ve formed my own perception —especially one based on emotion and disappointments. Complete peace comes when I believe in the God of the Bible, when I believe who God says He is in His Word. The more I read His Word, the more I begin to know and understand His character, His nature, and His ways. A deeper connection and relationship with my Heavenly Father emerges out of the time that I spend with Him. There, I find perfect peace that calms anxiety.
Mindful of Anxiety
Part of the formula I’ve discovered to calm anxiety is to remain mindful of it. I’ve learned that I cannot allow it to run rampant through my heart and mind or my anxious thoughts will continue to multiply within me. I must tame my thought patterns, and that requires smothering them with the truth of Scripture. When my mind is filled with God’s truth, there’s no room for it to wander off into negative, anxious, and destructive thinking.
The Bible is filled with God’s wisdom and instruction that deliver His authentic and unwavering peace. By relying on Him, I can calm anxiety and embrace joy in my jumbled life.
May you discover our holy God through His Word today,
Anxiety, whether common anxiety over life issues or an anxiety disorder, is something that plagues our minds. It takes root in our thought lives and can disrupt so much more: our energy levels, concentration, eating habits, sleep, communication, relationships, you name it! The real struggle is in what we ponder, which is why today’s verse is so powerful as we work to calm anxiety.
You will keep the mind that is dependent on You
in perfect peace,
for it is trusting in You (HCSB)
The more we focus on God, the more we receive His peace. The HCSB says peace comes when our minds are dependent on God. Other Bible translations use the terms “stayed,” “fixed,” or “steadfast.” Each points us in the same direction. When God is the center of our focus, we trust in Him and He brings peace. Perfect peace. That peace is unwavering and able to withstand anything that comes at us.
How do we focus on God? How do we develop a steadfast thought life that holds Christ in the center? It takes practice, first and foremost. And we start one step at a time. Here are some practices that help me when my thoughts threaten to take a dangerous path of worry and anxiety:
Calm Anxiety with Focus on Christ
Read more of God’s Word.
My aim is to read Scripture every day. I don’t give myself a set assignment like reading an entire chapter or three. My days are too sporadic for that. Sometimes I have lots of time to read and other days it feels like my feet are running on a treadmill before I ever even get out of bed. As I read daily Scripture, sometimes it’s one verse. Sometimes it’s an entire book of the Bible. It truly doesn’t matter. If I’m reading His Word, it is an aid to keep my mind fixed on God.
Pray and ask for focus.
As I turn my minds to focus on God, I’m trying to accomplish a spiritual discipline. I cannot accomplish a spiritual discipline with fleshly strength. It’s important to ask for the Lord’s help in my endeavor and accept His supernatural and divine help. I am not alone in this task. God is by my side, aiding and equipping me along the way.
Place visual and electronic reminders.
It helps a LOT to have a Bible verse taped to the bathroom mirror, or to my dashboard, or as wallpaper on my phone. It also helps to set an electronic alarm as a reminder to take a break for 5 minutes and read or re-read a verse or passage each day. Lastly, when making the bed, I sometimes place my Bible on my pillow to remind myself to read the Word once again before I drift off to sleep.
Listen to podcasts or watch videos that pertain to the Bible.
I find this a great way to use my drive time or chore time to help my thought habits. ** If you’d like to listen in, I have a FREE daily video devotion series here. **
I often ask a friend, mentor, or even my husband to check in with me from time to time and ask if I’ve been in God’s Word each day. If I know I’ll have to answer to someone, even casually, I’m much more diligent in my efforts. Accountability can go a long way in strengthening my thought life and fixing it on God.
Which of these tips do you find most helpful? Are there practices that you use that I didn’t share? Please tell me about them in the comments. I’d love to hear!
For additional inspiration about calming anxiety, be sure to read the rest of this 7-day series.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it on social media so other women can also be encouraged!
May you find great peace today as you fix your mind on Christ,