In the military, there are exercises where people practice war–first aid, response to attack, etc. Those are useful exercises so that the soldiers know what to do automatically if attacked. Troops are taught to put on gas masks, to splint a bone, to find shelter, to stay calm, to read the situation appropriately. They are given a class called “Self Aid/Buddy Care” which is first aid that they can use on themselves or on a fellow soldier.
Now how reasonable would it be if, instead of practicing how to treat the wounded or how to stop an attack, the generals just gathered all the troops together and said “Ok, now we’re going to practice being attacked. Everyone just curl up in a ball and lie there. Imagine thousands of tiny metal shards hitting your skin. Picture the sirens and how you just hurt and bleed. How do you feel? What sort of injuries do you think you would have? How badly does it hurt? Now, imagine the bleeding…are you down a pint? A quart? What sort of terrible thing happens next? Let’s just pretend that attacks keep coming and we keep getting hurt and nothing ever goes right for you in this attack, no one comes to rescue. Dwell on the fear, the pain. How scared are you? Keep thinking about how horrible it is until your tummy is tender and your heart is racing and you are really afraid. Ok, the ‘Practice Bleeding’ exercise is over! Go home and think about how awful this would be.”.
That would make no sense at all. All that would do is leave the troops feeling drained, morose, fearful. They would be more likely to panic, would be more prone to depression. That would be useless. It really would be practice bleeding. It would not serve any useful purpose.
However, that is EXACTLY what we do when we allow our thoughts to go down the path of “What if”, when we allow ourselves to dwell on the horrible, the terrible, the frightening. We practice bleeding.
We allow our minds to ponder every minuscule detail of a terrible thing that hasn’t happened and probably won’t happen. We allow these thoughts in our head until we panic (panic disorder), or we do some sort of behavior to relieve the stress of it (OCD), or we just let it fester in our brains (chronic anxiety), or we feel hopeless (depression).
You practice bleeding but do you ever “practice bandaging”? You imagine the bad thing, but do you ever imagine victory over it? Do you imagine the grace of the Lord? Do you imagine how He might keep you or your loved ones from harm? Do you imagine the teaching or wisdom you might receive, or the mercy or forgiveness?
If we were to imagine the glory, the mercy, the deliverance, the accomplishment of these things, then they would not run our lives in fear and dread. We would know that the Lord works everything out for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose, and therefore our minds would not wander down these horrible paths, and our emotions would not be overwhelming our lives. We would be fearless and at peace, resting in Him.
Stop “Practice Bleeding”. It is serving you no purpose.
Instead, practice success. Practice health. Practice helping others. Even if in the beginning it is just in your head, rehearse how you might teach someone a skill. Picture yourself catching someone if they slipped on the ice so they aren’t hurt. Imagine that you are strong in the Lord and able to walk out your door and be His hands, His voice, His feet. Don’t imagine defeat, imagine victory.
It will be difficult at first—your mind is not used to wandering down healthy paths, only unhealthy ones. However, the more you practice, the more you obey the Lord, the more you allow Him to guide you, the easier it will be for your mind to stick to a purposeful, uplifting scenario, not allow it to become negative or frightening. It just takes practice.
If you ever find yourself wandering down bad thought paths, remind yourself how foolish it would be to practice bleeding…and that that is exactly what you are doing. You will have to get stern with your mind, but that is ok. Remember: stern with the mind, gentle with the spirit.
Practice healing, not practice bleeding.
Right now write down 10 different scenarios where you have been or could be a help, where you can help someone else, showing them the grace of the Lord. It can be anything from showing a child how to tie their shoes at the park, to baking bread for a lonely new neighbor, to being a paramedic who gives a choking mother the Heimlich maneuver, saving her life.
For example, one time the Lord allowed me to be a blessing to a very sick child. I had made blankets for my nephews for Christmas and sent them off. I didn’t know that they were so badly sick, and one had pneumonia. He had not been able to rest and was desperately ill. My sister-in-law opened the box, he took one of the blankets out, then curled up with it and finally slept. The Lord allowed my little fleece blanket with the satin binding to give peace and rest to a terribly sick little boy.
One time that you might imagine for the future right now is that maybe sometime the Lord will allow you to be used to turn someone’s heart back to their family. Maybe they are tired or frustrated. Maybe they are sick or weak. Somehow, the Lord will have healing and peace for them, and He will let you be the mailman for His mercy and wisdom.
When your thoughts are racing, stop them and think of one of these times. Praise the Lord for His mercy in allowing you to minister to His children in the way that He prepared you for. Ask His forgiveness for all the ministering that He prepared you for that you are missing because your focus has been your fear, not Him. Then praise Him again for this opportunity to recover and get back into His perfect will, His perfect plan for your life. Use your very active imagination for your good, and for His glory.
See yourself as He made you—able to do good work that He has already prepared for you to do. See yourself living day to day in peace and joy that He provides. He may have work for you that you see, or work for you that you don’t realize you are doing (He often does not show us our work so that we won’t get proud–we are not doing the blessing; it is the Lord through us).
In any event, picture your days being filled with the Lord, with joy and peace. Your feet will be ready at any time He calls you to do something, and in the meantime, you are a constant beacon of His light to those around you.
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. NAS
Ephesians 2: 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV