To Those Who Send ‘Good Thoughts’

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Guest Contributor

Dear friend,

When I posted on social media about the difficulty I’m facing, I couldn’t help but notice that a number of people, including you, responded by saying that you are “sending good thoughts.” And I’m trying to figure out what that means.

I think you mean that you wish for me the best possible outcome. I think you mean that you care about what is happening in my life and want me to know I’m not alone in facing this.

“Deep down I know that what I need most is to set my heart and mind on what is good.”

I don’t think you mean that you really believe that your good thoughts have some sort of telepathic power to actually create positive change in my situation. But maybe you do. Or maybe sending me “good thoughts” is your way of encouraging me to think good or positive thoughts because you believe there is power in those thoughts to help to bring about a positive outcome.

Even though I’m not exactly sure what you mean, I want you to know how I receive the “good thoughts” you sent my way.

First, I appreciate your kindness. I’m sure there were many people who read my post and scrolled right past it. They weren’t inclined to let me know that they care about what is going on in my life, but you stopped. You reached out to me in this hard place, and I want you to know that is meaningful to me. I’m genuinely grateful for your kindness, for your willingness to get outside of yourself and enter into the difficulty in my life, even if just through a few words posted on social media.

Second, I admire your integrity. While there were some who replied to my post by telling me that they are praying for me, you didn’t. Perhaps it is because you are not a person who prays or has a relationship with God in which you can call him “Father.” To tell me that you were praying for me might fit what you thought I would want to hear, or might fit in with social convention in our circles, but you knew it would be hypocritical for you to say it. There is integrity in that determination that I respect.

Third, your words remind me to think good thoughts. I’m beginning to see that no matter what you intended to communicate by your words, they might actually be what I need most to hear.

In the midst of this difficult situation, deep down I know that what I need most is to set my heart and mind on what is good. More specifically, I need my thoughts to be filled with the One who is good, the only person who is truly, perfectly, and perpetually good — God himself (Luke 18:19).

It seems to me that the psalmist knew he needed the same thing when he wrote, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you’” (Psalm 16:2). Setting my mind on the goodness of God and his goodness toward me might not change my situation, but it changes me! It changes my perspective about the things in my life that are clearly not good.

Fourth, your words remind me of God’s commitment to my good. Because I belong to him, I am convinced that God is for me, not against me (Romans 8:31–32). His goodness to me doesn’t mean that he never allows things into my life that are not good. It means that I can be sure he will use everything in my life for my ultimate good. And what is that good? I actually don’t have to wonder or be looking for something that fits my limited definition of “good” to come out of this situation.

The “good” toward which God has promised to work all things — even the worst of things — in my life is to conform me to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). The very best outcome of this (or any) situation is that God would use it to make me more like Jesus. You see, the goal of my life isn’t simply to be comfortable or successful or healthy or any of the other things most people in this world would see as a positive outcome in difficulties like the one I am facing. The goal of my life, the aim of my life day in and day out, is that I would think like Jesus and love like Jesus and value what Jesus values and even suffer in the way Jesus suffered — meaning, I want to respond to suffering in the same way he did.

“There is only one person whose good thoughts toward you and me have any real power to heal, to restore, to sustain.”

As Jesus faced the cross, the worst suffering of all time, the people around him were not sending him good thoughts. His best friends fled, thinking only of themselves and their own safety (Matthew 26:56). The crowds that gathered around him mocked him and spit on him. Even the two robbers who were crucified with him reviled him (Matthew 27:44). It was only Jesus who was full of good thoughts, good words, for others on the day of his crucifixion, saying, as he hung there, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Jesus experienced the devastating wrath of God on that day, the wrath you and I deserve to experience forever, so that you and I can enjoy the goodness of God for all eternity. It’s almost too good to be true! These are the thoughts I want and need to fill my mind with.

Finally, your good thoughts prompt me to pray. I know you did not want to tell me that you were praying for me. And that’s okay. But would it be okay with you if I pray for you? You see, as you’ve prompted me to think about the goodness of God, I’m realizing how much I want you to know and experience the goodness of God, not just circumstantially in this life, which is really very brief, but personally and perfectly for the next life, which is really very long. I guess my message to you, my invitation to you, my plea to you is this: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8). He is the only person whose good thoughts toward you and me have any real power to heal, to restore, to sustain, or to provide peace and joy.

I want you to know that whenever I read that you are sending me or someone else “good thoughts,” I’m not going to roll my eyes. Instead, I’m going to close my eyes and meditate for a moment on all of the goodness that has flowed into my life from my heavenly Father, all of the goodness being worked into my life by the Holy Spirit, and all of the goodness I stand to inherit by being joined to Jesus Christ. And I’m going to pray that you will know and experience that goodness too.

attends Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, in Franklin, Tennessee, and teaches at conferences around the country and internationally, including her Biblical Theology Workshops for Women. She and her husband host Respite Retreats for couples who have faced the death of a child and are co-hosts of the GriefShare video series.