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Thinking Backwards

Weekly Devotionals

Thinking Backwards

By now, everyone in the world has been affected by COVID-19.  There have been over 13,000 deaths and over 300,000 confirmed cases worldwide.  If you have been fortunate enough not to have lost a loved one or fallen ill, “social distancing”, school closures, canceled events, holds on travel has probably had an impact on your everyday life.  As I find myself in a state of worry and uncertainty, I’ve been trying to stay centered in Christ.  However, as the pandemic spreads globally, more of my plans are being put on hold or left in a state of uncertainty.  I find myself asking how do I COMPLETELY trust God during this time?  This section from Alicia Britt Chole’s book about “Thinking Backwards” has been helpful for reflection, repentance, clarity, and growth.  I hope it provides some helpful handles for trusting in our Father God, the Rock eternal in these uncertain times.

During a dark time of impending judgment in Israel’s history, Isaiah penned these lines for a song of praise.  The longed-for “perfect peace” – translated from shalom – carries the meaning of completeness, soundness, and welfare.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself is the Rock eternal.  (Isaiah 26:3-4)

God keeps our hearts peaceful (sound, complete, well) when we keep our minds trust-full (steadfast upon Him).  And trust – its absence or presence, its solidness or sponginess – is directly related to the health of our “God-concepts” – how we perceive and know God.

We cannot trust God in full if we believe He only loves us in part.  We dare not trust God with our future if we believe that He was negligent in our past.

If, in our spiritual guts, we view God as inconsistent, absent, angry, or stingy, what we call “trust” may be a tentative half-dependence with a ready back-up plan, i.e., “I can only truly depend on myself”.

God-concepts inform beliefs, and beliefs influence attitudes, emotions, and behaviors.  The latter – attitudes, emotions, and behaviors – are followers, not leaders.  They are responders, not initiators.  As such, they are manifestations of something deeper in our working, applied belief systems.

Sometimes we may say, “I”m sorry I did/said that.  I just wasn’t thinking,” which implies that we acted first and thought second.  Though heartfelt, this is perhaps less than true.  We probably were thinking.  Our thinking may be been angry, selfish, poor, incorrect, incomplete, impulsive, or vengeful.  But we were thinking.  Perhaps it is time to think backward: to start with the unpleasant attitude or unholy action and ask ourselves, what in my thinking was justifying this attitude?  

When we fear the future, what does that reveal about our working God-concepts?

When we self-lead instead of wait, what do we really believe about God’s goodness?

When we refuse to forgive ourselves, what does that reveal about our theology of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection?

When we feel resentful toward life’s scenery, what must we believe about God’s sovereignty?

And so on.

Thinking backwards awakens us to the why of our behaviors.  Thinking backward empowers us to discern and address unhealthy, unproductive God-concepts.  Thinking backward is a discipline by which we can retrain our minds.  The resulting healthier God-concepts will yield a sturdier, increasingly steadfast trust.  Such trust is a must for those who long to live, in whatever scenery, in “perfect peace.”