By Shery Abdelmalak
“The devil does not hunt after those who are lost; he hunts after those who are aware, those who are close to God. He takes from them trust in God and begins to afflict them with self-assurance, logic, thinking, criticism.” Pope Shenouda III statement | An Overthinker’s Guide To Thinking Less
What has always astounded me was how different people can react completely differently to the same situation. A quick way to elicit a response could be a rollercoaster ride. You’ll have people that scream, people that laugh, people in shock and others that won’t even flinch. Because it’s not about the external, it’s about the influence this has on the inside.
Moreover, the same person can react differently to the same situation depending on what is happening to them on the inside. If you get cut off in traffic and you’re having a good day, you probably won’t react, but if you’re having a bad day, God help that driver.
The trickiest thing about emotions is that there is no real right or wrong way to feel. For the day to day, certain reactions are expected and easily justified, but for those that are not expected, the mind goes in circles to justify a certain feeling.
“Pope Shenouda III once likened bad thoughts to flies around our heads.” An Overthinker’s Guide To Thinking Less
I don’t think any of us could anticipate an imminent pandemic, let alone the right or wrong way to feel about it. But the overuse of thoughts creates an internal intention that centres everything on me, and what I feel.
If I can’t justify how I feel, my mind will spin in circles until I can give myself a seemingly logical explanation to what I am feeling. The early church fathers unanimously agree that when it comes to a bad thought or feeling, we should get rid of them before they have a chance to thrive.
Pope Shenouda III once likened bad thoughts to flies around our heads. We know to shew flies away immediately, but when it comes to bad thoughts, we allow them to nest and make a home in our minds.
If only it was easy as getting rid of flies. At least with flies, we know immediately that no good can come, with bad feelings, it is usually in the manifestation of the thoughts that we realise how much time was wasted. Rightfully so, as Elder Paisos describes;
“The devil does not hunt after those who are lost; he hunts after those who are aware, those who are close to God. He takes from them trust in God and begins to afflict them with self-assurance, logic, thinking, criticism.”
“The trickiest thing about emotions is that there is no real right or wrong way to feel.” Shery Abdelmalak | An Overthinker’s Guide To Thinking Less
But there is a way to make good of the negatives we may feel. For any negativity can serve as a reminder to pursue Christ a little more deeply. The Christian life is a continual emptying of the world and embracing Christ. We cannot simply ignore the bad thoughts without replacing them with something good.
For every, single thought, good or bad, we can call to the remembrance of Christ, and relate all back to the Source of all peace. St Niolai Velimirovich describes the necessity of the Christian life saying;
[T]he enormous difference is clearly seen between a pagan philosopher and a Christian saint. The one (the philosopher) loses himself in abstractions, in cleverly twisted words, in logical provocations and in thoughtful sport while the other (the saint) directed his whole mind on the Living God and on the salvation of his soul. The one is abstract and dead, while the other is practical and alive.”
Any negative emotion, even to the extremities of depression and anxiety disorders are argued by some that this is a heart away from God. The counterargument to this is generally, no, you can have negative emotions and still be close to God. But to take it one step further, negative emotions are a key spiritual tool that draw the heart of man to God. If you feel upset, if you feel angry, take it to the Throne, for the heart that is in pain, draws God closer.
“I don’t think any of us could anticipate an imminent pandemic, let alone the right or wrong way to feel about it. But the overuse of thoughts creates an internal intention that centres everything on me, and what I feel.” Shery Abdelmalak | An Overthinker’s Guide To Thinking Less
To say that we should never feel any kind of negative emotion is the same as saying that we should never sin. In the same way that the repentance of sin brings us to Christ, we can find joy when the world around us is filled with sadness.
King David was described as a man after God’s own heart, yet he experienced more than his fair share of negative emotion, to the height of depression even. If we take King David’s approach to sadness, we can imitate the relationship he had with the Saviour.
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes.” – Psalms 119:71
When utilised for the benefits of the soul, all turmoil is given purpose. The soul is weighted above all other thoughts that mind can conjure.
“Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better” – Ecclesiastes 7:3
Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2021-03-09 from Sydney, Australia.
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