As a neuropsychologist, one of the greatest challenges I’ve encountered in treating patients with a variety of medical and mental health disorders has been to teach the importance of our mindset, and what we spend time focusing on. What we focus on grows. So when we feel anxious or depressed, when we focus on those feelings, the feelings just worsen. Yet, God used a very painful time in my life to teach me that I can either focus on facts, or I can focus on the truth of His promises. When I focus on the latter, my entire day seems so much better, brighter, and more encouraged. It doesn’t mean that I don’t experience difficult moments within a day, but I’m less prone to let those moments ruin an entire day. As I share here and in my newly released book, Today is Going to be a Good Day: 90 Promises from God to Start Your Day Off Right, learning how to focus on God will literally change your day.
Scripture shares the importance of focusing on God’s truth: “Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them” (1 Timothy 4:13).
I recall when I was pregnant the first time. When I found out I was expecting a baby, I didn’t know anyone else who was pregnant. We had waited a long time after getting married to start our family so most of my friends were through the pregnancy stage by then. But it seemed that everywhere I looked, I noticed pregnant women, probably because I was so focused on my own pregnancy.
You might think that’s a rare example of the fact that what we focus on grows, but the same was true when my husband and I were looking for a new car. We had narrowed it down to a couple of models and researched cost, safety, and the like. During the month or so that we were searching, we began to notice others driving those very same models. It seemed those two models were everywhere we were. Again, we were more attuned to them because we had been focusing on them.
The Neuropsychology of What We Focus on Grows
The two examples above exemplify the truth that what you focus on grows. Now that statement is originally accredited to Buddha, but we see where this statement is supported in scripture:
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4 NIV).
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV).
The pattern of our thoughts impacts our brain. Our thoughts can be thought of as pathways we might walk on. The more we entertain a thought, whether positive or negative (i.e. “God loves me” vs “I’m just so stupid”), the more we believe them and the more entrenched those pathways become in our brain.
When we take the time to analyze our thoughts, then and only then can we ascertain whether they are consistent with what God says. When our thoughts are not consistent with God’s thoughts, the more negative we tend to be not only toward ourselves but also toward others.
The thoughts we think impact our health (physical, mental and spiritual). “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30 ESV). To see positive change in your health, take control of your thoughts. The battle for our thoughts is one of the largest battlefields we face against the enemy of our souls. When we line up our thoughts with the thoughts and promises of God, it gives our Spirit the opportunity to renew our thoughts and our attitudes. Then, we can align them with truth of what God says.
That is one reason God commands us to take every thought captive:
“The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 BSB).
Our attention and focus can be equated to the seed in Jesus’s parable of the sower:
“While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“ ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
It’s important to focus on God, not your problems
The enemy of our soul would love to get us to focus on our problems because he knows that’s a slippery slope into doubt, discouragement, and despair. In the New Testament (Matthew 4), we read of how Jesus went out into the wilderness to fast and pray before He began His earthly ministry.
When Jesus was at His weakest from fasting, the enemy tried to tempt Him, to get Him to forget truth. But Jesus modeled for us what our response should be: rather than focusing on our problems, or the negative, He spoke God’s truth to refute the enemy’s attack.
When we focus on our problems, we focus on our impossibilities, whereas when we focus on God, we focus on all that is possible with and through Him.
How do I focus on God and not my problems?
Jesus warns us in God’s Word that we will all suffer trouble in this world, but he wants us to understand and appreciate that our focus should not be on the trouble but on his peace, and the victory that we have in Him.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Focusing on God rather than our problems really comes down to choosing to focus on God’s truth rather than the facts of our situation. Let me provide an example to illustrate:
When I received the call from my doctor that my biopsy had come back positive for cancer, the enemy tempted me to worry and become fearful and anxious, by directing my thoughts to all the “what if?” questions.
“What if we didn’t catch it in time?”
“What if treatment isn’t effective?”
“What if the prognosis is worse than the doctor suspects?”
Each of those questions focused on the fact that I had been given a cancer diagnosis and caused me to put my faith and my trust in the doctor’s report.
I had to choose, instead, to focus on the truth:
“This did not take God by surprise, and He already knows how He’s going to get me through this.”
“God is still on His throne and is still in the miracle-making, healing business today.”
“God promises to be my healer, and He promises to supply my every need.”
By de-emphasizing the facts and emphasizing (and choosing to believe) what God has promised in His word, I was able to have peace through the process and leave my unknown future in the hands of my known God.
Another time, we had just driven across country to move my oldest son into his college freshman dorms. Pretty much as soon as orientation was finished, and he was set up in his dorm, we had to immediately turn around and head home to get my youngest son back to start his freshman year of high school.
On our drive home, friends alerted me through text and phone calls of an impending hurricane that was threatening to hit the entire state where my son was enrolled in college.
Focusing on the facts caused my anxiety to escalate. “How will we get him to safety?” “What if he doesn’t evacuate in time?”
Very quickly I realized I was focused on the facts, not truth. Despite the weather predictions and the very real nature of hurricanes, the truth remained that God loved my child even more than I do, He promises to be our shelter in the storm, and He promises to provide for all our needs. When I began focusing on those truths, I was able to regain my peace and entrust my son into God’s very capable hands.
How do you truly give your problems to God?
We often forget to focus on the enormity of our God living among us and inside us, and all that He has already accomplished for us. That’s where an “altar of remembrance,” even if only journaled words scratched on a notepad can be incredibly helpful to remind us of all He has already done, to help us trust what He remains capable of doing.
Giving our problems to God is a matter of choice and intentionality. Much like the man who told Jesus that he believed, but then asked Him to help his unbelief, giving our problems to God starts with a willing heart.
When our heart is willing to give God our problems, I believe God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, has an open door to remind us of the truth we know. When He reminds us of the truth of God’s Word, and the many promises He’s given us, we declare our willingness to trust what God says more than what our circumstances suggest.
When we slip (and we all do!), we repent and confess our lapse into worry, fear, anxiety, doubt, discouragement, etc., and ask God to strengthen our resolve to leave our problems with Him and not pick them up again.
Staying focused on God & the things of God
God told us what we should focus on in Philippians 4:8-9:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Because God is always good, and is only capable of good, when we focus on what He deems good things (i.e., whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy), we won’t be able to keep ourselves from focusing on God, all that He is, and all that He has done. When our focus is on God, our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior will all follow, and it will be difficult to have a bad day in light of God’s goodness.
How do I stay focused on God?
Staying focused on God in today’s overly busy, ever-changing world is not easy. It’s easy for our focus on God to become distracted by people, demands, and even our emotions.
1) Desire a deeper relationship with God—I won’t speak for anyone else, but I have unfortunately found that when life is going well, we can unconsciously slip into a mindset where we believe or at least behave like we can handle things on our own, rather than on our daily dependence on God.
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (James 4:8 NLT).
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:12-14a ESV).
2) Confess all our known sins to God—sin separates us from a right relationship with God. That’s why the enemy is always tempting us to sin. He doesn’t want us walking closely with God because he doesn’t walk with God. But God provided repentance and confession as a gift to us to restore our relationship to Him.
“For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.” (Psalm 51:3-4 NLT)
“Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us” (Hebrews 12:1).
3) Receive and walk in God’s forgiveness.—the enemy wants us to wallow in guilt, shame, and condemnation. But once we’ve repented and confessed to God our sin and our failures, we must believe that He has forgiven us. God’s forgiveness is like when a parent offers their child a birthday or Christmas present—it must be received to be of any good. Once we get over ourselves, recognizing that Jesus paid the price so that our sins could be forgiven, draws our focus to God.
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9 NLT)
“O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.” (Psalm 86:5 NLT)
4) Choose wisely what we allow into our eyes, ears and heart. –God tells us that we will be exposed to many things in this world, and we must take care what we allow in our eyes, ears, mind, and heart whether it be TV, radio, books, magazines, social media, or even conversations with others.
“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:20-27)
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT)
5) Seek to walk in the Holy Spirit–Being filled with the Spirit produces good fruit and helps keep our focus on the things that God deems most important. When we focus on God and are led by the spirit, we will be filled with the Holy Spirit and exemplify the fruit of the spirit for others to see.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” (John 16:13 NLT)
6) Abide in Christ (live, dwell) Stay attached to the Vine (Jesus) through regular Bible study and prayer. –Jesus explained how we can maintain our focus on God rather than our problems when He shared how important it is for us to abide/remain in Him. That includes thinking about Him, what He preached, what He promised, and what He did, with an emphasis on trying to become more like Him.
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4 NLT)
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:9-11 NLT)
7) Journal from your Bible study and from your prayer time as Father speaks to your spirit and heart—Journaling is a way to help us remember the questions we’ve had, things God has revealed to us in His word, prayers He has answered, etc. so that our faith will grow during the hard times, and our focus will be on Him more than on ourselves.
“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Write down for the record everything I have said to you, Jeremiah.” (Jeremiah 30:2 NLT)
“Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us.” (Luke 1:1 NLT)
“Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.” (Romans 15:15 NLT)
8) Focus and Study the Promises of God, The Truth of God—in my most recent book, Today is Going to be a Good Day: 90 Promises from God to Start Your Day Off Right, I repeatedly shared the importance of focusing on the truth of God’s word, especially the many promises He gave us. We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to remind us of all truth, but He cannot remind us of that which we don’t know, so it’s up to us to study God’s word and learn what it says.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NLT)
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” (Psalm 25:5 NLT)
“Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live.” (Psalm 43:3 NLT)
“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.” (John 4:23 NLT)
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12 NLT)
9) Prayer focuses on God who hears and answers our prayers.—Our first response in every situation should be prayer. God tells us to pray about everything. Instead of just praying for ourselves, let’s be sure to pray for the needs of others. Make a list of those to pray for and the Lord will GROW the list.
Pray like this:
“Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13 NLT)
“The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD will answer my prayer.” (Psalm 6:9 NLT)
“You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.” (Psalm 65:5 NLT)
“I took my troubles to the LORD; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.” (Psalm 120:1 NLT)
10) Worship and Praise opens our hearts to receive from the Lord—when I was going through a major health crisis and in the pit of depression, I found it hard to even desire to praise and worship God, despite knowing its importance. Scripture reminds us that “God inhabits the praises of His people” (Psalm 22:3 KJV) and satan hates it when we offer praise and worship to God. As we praise and worship, our hearts become more receptive to the moving of the Holy Spirit.
“For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24 NLT)
“Honor the LORD for the glory of his name. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” (Psalm 29:2 NLT)
“Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD.” (Psalm 89:15 NLT)
“Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker” (Psalm 95:6 NLT)
“Let the godly sing for joy to the LORD; it is fitting for the pure to praise him.” (Psalm 33:1 NLT)
“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:11 NLT)
“I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:4 NLT)
I hope that this post has helped you to further appreciate the importance of where we place our focus, and how what we focus on grows and can impact our day for better or for worse.
I’d love to hear in the comments below what helps you to keep your focus on God?
Make it a Good Day,
Today is Going to be a Good Day
Exciting News! My newest book, Today is Going to be a Good Day: 90 Promises from God to Start Your Day Off Right is now available!
More information on this uplifting devotional that helps you make each day a good day no matter what is going on in your life.
When life conspires to drag us down with all of its troubles, it can be hard to keep our spirits up. In times of severe illness and depression, I learned that when I stand on God’s promises, despite my circumstances, every day can be a good day.
Each reading includes Scripture, reflection, prayer, and a recommended playlist song designed to help you live out Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
For more information on the book visit:
I truly appreacite your presewnce in my blogiverse! Have a wonderful week!
Thanks so much for these ideas as tried and true from you. To stop and worship stood out to me this morning, because of the opposites, so hard to murmur when you are truely praising the Lord.
Wonderful and encouraging post!
Michelle, this is a fantastic lesson. I’m finding that as I age I’m better at laying my problems and chronic illnesses at the feet of Jesus so that I can focus on Him. Blessings.
Visiting you today my other blog, Imparting Grace #37