I’ve been thinking about this post for about 2-3 weeks now and with tomorrow being 4 weeks since my surgery, I thought I should probably write it.
Where do I begin?
I guess I will briefly mention that heart surgery is my fourth major surgery since 2002. The first three (gall bladder removal and 2 c-sections) were not the best experiences (UNDERSTATEMENT!) and I’ve been dreading heart surgery ever since. Not the actual surgery – but the recovery.
I tend to over think, over analyze, over plan, worry, get anxious, and spend all together too much time anticipating negative things.
Because of this, Philippians is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Why? Because generally speaking it’s all about Joy.
Paul is writing from chains and he can’t “shut up” about being thankful and full of joy. He is excited about all of the things God is doing in spite of (or rather because of) Paul’s difficult circumstances.
The book as a whole is the antithesis of my negative normal.
Looking at specifics, Philippians has many powerful verses that remind me God is good and he commands me to rejoice. He commands me to not be anxious. He commands me that “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” I should think on such things (Phil 4: 8).
When I was in college, I wrote the following, in large print, on paper:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6 & 7
And then I stuck it on the ceiling over my bed. It was a very helpful reminder and many nights I stared up at it, repeating the words in my head, letting the peace of God calm my anxious heart.
I’m not bragging here. I’m telling you I have a REALLY hard time being positive and joyful. And I’m constantly challenged by God’s best for me, as spelled out in Philippians. He doesn’t give any exemptions or qualifiers. He just says “rejoice”!
What I don’t mean
At the same time, this joy, not being anxious, often also seen as “positive attitude” or “positive thinking” is NOT in the same as when people say things like “I’m sending you positive thoughts (or vibes or whatever)”. There is not positive energy that exists in the universe as some type of currency we can pass around to each other.
This “rejoice” God commands is also NOT some type of guarantee that things will go well, here on earth. It’s not a magic formula. Think positive and you will have a wonderful life. Paul, writer of Philippians, is an example of that as he was probably killed for the faith. (See more here)
So what does all this mean in relation to heart surgery?
I am extremely grateful for the timing of how everything went. I’m thankful for the support network surrounding me. I’m thankful for the circumstances and the results.
I don’t specifically think I automatically am having a good recovery because I’m more joyful. At the same time I also don’t discount that perhaps God commands us to rejoice because he knows he built our bodies to respond better (scientifically speaking) when we are positive.
God loves us more than anyone can even wrap their mind around. He loves me more than my parents love me. He loves me more than my boys, or than JJ, love me. His commandments are an out flowing of that love. Because he is the definition of love and everything that is good, because he is all powerful and all knowing, because he wants the absolute best for me – he commands me in ways that are sometimes very confusing and backwards looking to me. Yet, I trust that he is who he says he is.
He wants the best for me. And in Philippians, he commands me to rejoice in all things and in all circumstances.
In summary – Positive thinking is not what you think. It’s not because I want things to go well. It’s not because things are going well. It’s because He loves me and he commands me to rejoice. And – in opposition to my negative normal – it is Christ in me, from which the Joy overflows.
To His Glory, forever. Amen.