I haven’t finished reading Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. It’s not a book I can race through and be done. There are sentences that arrest me and I have to think on them for a time before I am ready to continue on. One such is a quote Hannah Whitall Smith included from another book. She doesn’t give the name of the author nor the book she got it from but writes; “Years ago I came across this sentence in an old book: ‘Never indulge, at the close of an action, in any self-reflective acts of any kind, whether of self-congratulation or of self-despair. Forget the things that are behind, the moment they are past, leaving them with God’.”
She goes on to say; “This has been of unspeakable value to me. When the temptation comes, as it mostly does to every worker after the performance of any service, to indulge in these reflections, either of one sort or the other, I turn from them at once and positively refuse to think about my work at all, leaving it with the Lord to overrule the mistakes, and to bless it as He chooses.”
This paragraph in particular struck me because I found I was indulging in reflections at the end of last week. Hannah Whitall Smith says these reflections are of two sorts: “either the soul congratulates itself upon its success, and is lifted up; or it is distressed over its failure, and is utterly cast down.” I tend toward the latter and such were my reflections. I rehashed every word I’d said, pictured the faces of those I’d spoken to, and tried to decide how my words had been received, whether I’d said things I oughtn’t, and whether or not I’d been a worthy living epistle. If such thoughts weren’t exhausting enough, I began to think about things other had said, sidelong glances I was sure I’d caught, became convinced I was being talked about behind my back, and was certain what was being said wasn’t positive. Not that I’d heard anything myself, but I had a feeling…
Looking back, I am struck by how all this felt. The more I dwelt on what were no doubt my own shortcomings and the little betrayals from so called friends, the smaller my world got. I felt everything constricting around ME and my body reacted. Muscles got taut, a band tightened around my head, and my mind was trapped on a hamster wheel of “what if they said this” and “you shouldn’t have said that” and ultimately, “why do you even bother at all?”
I thank God that there does come the “wait a minute” moment. First, I had to take myself in hand regarding being talked about. I did not know for certain that what I was thinking was even the truth. My Mom tells a story of how she was once having similar thoughts and her mentor said to her that no one thought about her nearly as much as she thought about herself. Harsh words, perhaps, but they stayed with Mom and I have found them of great use in my own dealings with other people. Chances are I am not nearly as important to people as they are to themselves and the odds of them thinking about me enough to be talking about me are slim. Even if my feeling was correct and I was being talked about, it isn’t any of my business. Others do not decide my behavior: the leading of the Holy Spirit decides my behavior so, no matter what, I am to love others with the same love that is freely poured out into me, forgive as I am forgiven, and put everything in His hands.
And so, this was not a pleasant evening for me but it was educational. I was astonished at the difference in feeling when I am focused on myself as opposed to living in the flow of the Holy Spirit. The first is, as I’ve shared, constrictive. If I’d continued to wallow in it, my life would have become stagnant whereas life lived within the flow of the Spirit is expansive. I noticed a change in my body the moment I turned my focus from myself and onto Jesus. My posture improved, my chin lifted, and what was promising to be a raging headache disappeared.
Joyce Meyer has a book called The Battlefield of the Mind. I haven’t read it but the title has always stuck with me. I have been thinking of how a battle does take place in my mind. Romans 8 is one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament. I return to it over and over and always find something new there and ended up looking at last week’s experience in light of Romans 8. I hardly know where to start quoting and where to finish because it all flows together so beautifully! For the sake of space, I will quote verses 5-7: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”
Here is warfare indeed. I have a carnal mind but I also have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). I choose which mind I am going to have at any given time. Will I set my mind on things of the flesh or will I set my mind on things above, not on things on the earth? Because I have been raised with Christ Himself, I will seek those things which are above where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. I will remind myself that I have died and my life is now hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3). I will not worry about what others are thinking about me or what they may or may not be saying about me. No, I will cast all my cares upon Him knowing that He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7) and not forgetting that He cares for them as well and desires that they too come to know the love of Christ.
I will choose to live a life of trust because, as Hannah Whitall Smith says, “having committed ourselves in our work to the Lord, we shall be satisfied to leave it to Him, and shall not think about ourselves in the matter at all.” Lord hasten it!
All scriptures are quoted from:
The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
All other quotes are from The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith, New Spire Edition published 2012 by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan, “Service”, Chapter 15, Pages 183-194.