What to do About Evil Thoughts.

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Manuscript of Imitation of Christ.

Thomas Kempis has a lot to say about feelings and thoughts in his book, “Imitation of Christ.”  I remember when I was a young Christian, I would get so discouraged by my thoughts. They did make me feel bad about myself. It is nice to know our thoughts are no surprise to God and he accepts us as we are, thoughts, feelings and all other things.

I wish I had learned when I was young what to do with bad thoughts and feelings, but the first I heard about the topic was from Joyce Meyer, who told me what to do about them: Quote Scripture out loud. Or tell Satan to go away. We can do that, Joyce says, because Jesus did and he is our example. Kempis also writes a lot about not finding our comfort from fellow humans – that God is enough.

From the book,”Imitation of Christ” (Abridged),

by Thomas a Kempis.

IT IS GOOD that we sometimes have troubles and crosses; for they often make a man enter into himself, and consider that he is here in banishment, and ought not to place his trust in any worldly thing…

It is good that we be sometimes contradicted; and that men think ill or inadequately of us, even though we do and intend well. These things help often to the attaining of humility, and defend us from vain glory: for then we chiefly seek God for our inward witness, when outwardly we are condemned by men, and when there is no credit given unto us.  

Therefore, a man should rest himself so fully in God, that he need not to seek many comforts of men. When a good man is afflicted, tempted, or troubled with evil thoughts, then he understands better the great need he hath of God, without whom he sees he can do nothing that is good. Then, also, he sorrows, laments, and prays, by reason of the miseries he suffers. Then also he understands that perfect security and full peace can not be had in this world.

That good and sweet affection which thou sometimes feel, is the effect of grace present, and a sort of foretaste of thy heavenly home; but on this you must not lean too much, for it comes and goes. 

But to strive against evil motions of the mind which arise, and to reject with scorn the suggestions of the devil, is a notable sign of virtue, and shall have great reward. 

Let no strange fancies therefore trouble you, which on any subject whatever may crowd into thy mind. Keep to your purpose, with courage, and an upright intention toward God. Neither is it an illusion that sometimes thou art suddenly rapt on high, and presently return again unto the accustomed vanities of thy heart.

 Know that the ancient enemy strives by all means to hinder your longing for good, and to keep you clear of all devout exercises… Many evil thoughts he suggests to you, that so he may cause a weariness and horror in you, to draw you away from prayer and holy communion.

Blame him when he suggests evil and unclean thoughts unto you; say to him, “Away, you unclean spirit! ” “Depart from me you wicked deceiver! you shall have no part in me: but Jesus shall be with me as a valiant Warrior, and you shalt stand confounded. “

‘The Lord is my Light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear?’ “If whole armies should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear. The Lord is my Helper and my Redeemer.”

 

Living with Cranky People.

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Photo by:  https://www.flickr.com/people/78428166@N00

I’m reading, The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A. Kempis (1380-1471). It is a book famous for its depth of spirituality. I just wanted to share parts of this book. The edition I am reading was published in old-fashioned English, so I am going to paraphrase.

It is not hard to associate with kind and gentle people. This is pleasing to all, and everyone enjoys peace and loves those who agree with them. 

But to be able to live peacefully with hard-hearted, irritable persons, disorderly persons, or those who argue with us, is a great grace, and a most commendable and brave thing.

Our whole peace in this world consists in this kind of humble suffering, not so much in experiencing troubles. He that knows how to suffer (being with these kind of people) in peace, is conqueror of himself, lord of the world, the friend of Christ and heir of heaven.

Kempis goes on to describe these two kinds of people, one of peace the other of passions.

A peaceful man does good and turns all things into good. A passionate man turns even good into evil, and easily believes evil. He who is discontented and troubled, is tossed with many suspicions; he is neither at rest himself nor will let others be at rest.

He often says what he should not say and does not say what he should. He judges what others do without judging himself. He will excuse his own deeds, but will not accept the excuses of others.

If you want to be forgiven and understood, learn to forgive and understand others.

Since there are quite a few cranky people in my family, I have realized a few things:

1. Don’t take what they say personally. If they are mad at the world, that is their problem. If you can in any way ignore politely what is said or have a “soft answer” that turns away wrath –  do it. If you need to talk with them about their treatment of you, wait for a calm time, sit down with them and say, “Do not speak until I am finished saying what I want to say.” Explain how you feel. Probably nothing will change, but at least you tried.  (However, after 40 years of this they just might!)

2. Don’t have expectations of people. They don’t know what you expect, for one thing, and even when you tell them, they usually won’t change.

3. This is the most important thing to do. Ask God to help you to accept and love this person just as they are. Ask God when you get angry, ask him in the morning, noon and night. God will do this for you. You will be at peace.

4. This may take 20 – 45 years to learn and even then you will goof up.