“Tis a most evil and pernicious practice in meditations on afflictions, to sit ruminating on the aggravations of the affliction, and reckoning up the evil, dark circumstances thereof, and dwelling long on the dark side; it doubles and trebles the affliction.
“If we dwelt on the light side of things in our thoughts, and extenuated them all the possibly we could, when speaking of them, we should think little of them ourselves; and the affliction would really, in a great measure, vanish away.”
Monday: Read Philippians 4:4-9
Jonathan Edwards’ above diary entry follows Saint Paul who urged the believers in Philippi to turn from anxiety to the peace of God. Ever practical, Paul tells his readers exactly how to do this. How do his teachings compare to the advice given by Jonathan Edwards?
Tuesday: Read Psalm 23
It is likely that this psalm, like many of David’s other psalms, was written during a period of tribulation, perhaps when he was fleeing from Saul. David may really have been walking through the valley of the shadow of death when he wrote this. Yet where does he put his focus and how and why does this help him? How does his example help you during times of affliction?
Wednesday: Read Matthew 6:25-34
How do these words of our Blessed Lord show that anxiety is not merely sinful, but irrational?
Thursday: Read Philippians 1:3-11
Friday: Read Romans 8:28 and Romans 12:21
If it were not for Paul’s reference to “my chains” in verse 7, would you know that this was written by someone who was suffering in prison? Throughout this epistle Paul is choosing to dwell on the light side of things in his thoughts, extenuating them as far as possible. How does Paul’s example help you in your own struggles to be positive?
If God works all things out for good for His people, how does this help us when endeavouring to extenuate the lighter side of things in our minds? Given the context of Romans: 21, what type of evil is it likely Paul has in mind when telling us to overcome evil with good? What are some broader applications of this same principle as it relates to your own thought life?
Saturday: Read Matthew 5:9
This familiar verse is usually taken to refer to peace-making in the context of relationships, and no doubt this is what our Blessed Lord had in mind. However, might there be a broader application to individuals seeking to bring peace to their thought life in dwelling on the lighter side of things?
Sunday: Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
What reason does Paul give in this passage for not losing heart during times of affliction? When we are going through trials, what realities ought to occupy our attention?
Lesson for This Week
Jonathan Edwards was by nature a melancholy person, as I have recently shown in my article ‘Jonathan Edwards: God’s Melancholy Saint.’ He did not always succeed in dwelling on the lighter side of things, and was often subject to depression and mood swings. He wrote the above words in a 1723 diary entry because he knew from painful experience that dwelling long on the dark side of things doubles and trebles the affliction. Yet he learned to vanquish dark thoughts by extenuating the light side of things and by the time he married and had a family, he was a great source of stability to them.
How are you doing? Do you multiply your afflictions by unnecessarily dwelling on them, or do you allow them to vanish, or at least to diminish, through dwelling on the positive things that God has done for you?
For further insight into this topic, download some of the other Bible studies that Robin has put together about being positive. The Ancient Path post “Longsuffering in the Christian Life” shares wisdom from Jonathan Edwards and scripture about being positive when having to deal with difficult people. The post “Maintaining Conjugal Love” shares wisdom from Richard Baxter and scripture about how to be positive in the midst of a difficult marriage. Finally, read Robin’s biography of Jonathan Edwards at the Alfred the Great Society, titled, “Jonathan Edwards: God’s Melancholy Saint.”
For a bit more of Jonathan Edwards (you can never have too much), order the book, Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, from our online store.