You know I’m a huge fan of marriage counseling, right? If you visit here much, you’re going to hear me talk about marriage counseling, because I think EVERYONE should do it. Seriously. Marriage counselors are such an incredible resource. Ike and I love ours, and she has given us so much great advice over the years.
Along those lines, I want to share something that Ike and I learned this year from our marriage counselor. The principle isn’t directly related to marriage, but it has helped us both in significant ways. The principle is short and sweet, just three simple words:
Stop the train.
Our counselor introduced us to this phrase, and it refers to our trains of thought. You see, Ike and I both have this thing where our imaginations run completely wild. In a bad way. Maybe it’s an assumption about someone’s motives, or why someone was unfriendly, why we were excluded from a group, or what will happen if we fail.
For me personally, I’m very sensitive to feeling left out. If I feel overlooked or rejected, my thoughts careen out of control. I imagine all the possibilities: do they not like me? Was it something I said? Something I wrote? Am I not confident enough? Fun enough? Creative enough?
These thoughts leave me with a pit in my stomach and a sour taste in my mouth. I feel small and insecure. The train speeds from “Why didn’t they invite me?” to “YOU ARE A JOKE” in no time flat.
In order to cope with those thoughts, our counselor explained that we need to stop the train. Whatever train of thought is carrying us away, we need to get off it.
For me, stopping the train takes a very specific form. Throughout the last two years, I have cultivated a habit that has become second nature to me. It’s my go-to whenever the train starts chugging. I came up with this strategy after I realized what was fueling my train: self-focus. Notice that every one of my fears included the word “me” or “I”–I wondered what people thought of me, or if there was something wrong with me. Why didn’t people like me??
So, I decided to cut off the fuel supply. The way to stop the train was to stop focusing on myself, and to focus on God. However, focusing on God instead of yourself is easier said than done. You need a strategy, so this is what I did: whenever my insecurities geared up, and all those “me” thoughts flooded in, I consciously shifted my focus onto God. More specifically, I recited God’s character. Whenever my thoughts spun out of control, I walked my mind through these truths:
- The Lord is wise
- Slow to anger and abounding in love
- He is our strong tower
- He is our rock
- He is our refuge
- He is almighty and everlasting
- He is a Savior
- He is a Redeemer
- He is a fortress and hiding place
- He is good
- He is patient
- He is kind
The list could go on and on. Scripture is full of descriptions about God, so it has been fun to comb through books like the Psalms and find new descriptions I can cling to.
However, one thing that I try to avoid is descriptions related to me. God has done so much for me–and the world–so it would be easy to praise Him and thank Him for that. In other contexts, that would be totally appropriate. But for this–for stopping my train of self-focus–I wanted to focus on Him. I wanted to meditate on His character and bear into it. In a sense, I wanted to lose myself in Him.
And let me tell you, this has literally changed my life. It has stopped the train dead in its tracks. At first it took some practice, but after awhile it became easier and easier. It shifted my focus off of my brokenness and onto the Healer.
One of the reasons I think this strategy is so helpful is that, on a deeper level, we are created to worship. It’s why we exist. So when we worship God, when we take the time to think about Him and praise Him for who He is, our souls connect with their created purpose. So it’s not just about stopping the train. It’s about being who God created us to be, and doing what we were created to do.
I think we all have trains that carry us to fear and insecurity, so I hope this principle will help you. But more than that, I hope it’s a reminder that worship isn’t limited to Sundays. It’s something we can do at any moment of any day, not only because God is worthy, but because it sets us free. Worship is the way to everything we have been promised in Christ. Worship is the path to life.