by Ginny Dent Brant @GinnyBrant
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NKJ)
Hearing the words “you have cancer” just four months after my mother had died from cancer was a jolt to my entire body. The next week, the news got worse: “It’s aggressive.” But strike three came when my surgeon flashed my MRI up on the wall and said, “It appears your cancer has spread to other parts of your body.” It looked like a tornado had invaded my body. Was this really my MRI? Was this my ticket to Heaven?
The way we handle stress and emotions in the trials of our lives can determine our health and well-being. Stress releases a cocktail of hormones that can suppress or temporarily shut down our immune response. It’s normal to experience stress from time to time. However, when stress is constant, our body shifts from defense and repair to an inability to defend against disease. Where we focus our attention in the trials of our lives makes a difference.
God knew that stress would wreak havoc on our bodies, but in His wisdom He has given us remedies—things we can do to help our bodies to restore during troubling times. In the book of Philippians, Paul instructs us on dealing with difficult times that cause stress to rear its ugly head. He first points us to prayer and gratitude (in the preceding verses). Then he challenges us to refocus our mind and attention.
While writing Philippians, Paul was under house arrest and chained to a Praetorian Guard, awaiting to go on trial for his life. Yet his mind is not focused on his negative circumstances. He instructs us to meditate on the things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good reports, and those things that are worthy of praise. I call these “the good things.” Paul is admonishing us to refocus on “the good things” rather than the adverse circumstances around us.
Paul’s advice is well-taken. Drowning in the negative circumstances of our lives provides no benefit. Meditating on the truth of God’s Word, laying our concerns at His feet in prayer, praising Him for the blessings in our lives, and refocusing on “the good things” are all productive actions that give us hope. We know that God will use all things for our good and for His eternal purposes.
Paul’s imprisonment meant sharing the Gospel in ways he could not anticipate. Living under arrest gave him opportunities to witness, time away from the world to refocus, and solitude to write God’s Word.
Trials don’t last forever, but they do make us stronger. Research shows that people who practice a lifestyle of prayer, gratitude, and refocusing their thoughts on the “good things” daily are healthier and heal better.
So what did I do in the middle of a deadly and aggressive cancer journey? I prayed more, I meditated on the truth in His Word, I sang His praises, I thanked Him for all the blessings, and I refocused on “the good things” along the way. I found that my cancer journey gave me time to refocus my life and eventually use my journey as a gift to help others. What’s good for the cancer patient is good for everyone. Where we focus our attention matters.
About the author: Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many TV and media interviews. Her recent book, Unleash Your God-given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer, was written with an oncologist after her cancer journey. Cancer prevention blog and more info at http://www.ginnybrant.com.
Join the conversation: On what do you focus when stress threatens to overtake you?