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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

Surviving in the COVID Era

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Control Your Mind vs. Mind Control
Liviu Tudoroiu

One of the most fundamental problems we face today is the inability to properly manage our emotions. Too often we fall in the trap of our own “bad moods” when our emotions overthrow the reasoning process and make our life miserable and somewhat senseless.

Is there any way out of this problem? Is there any hope for the people that are overburdened with the complexities of this life? Is there any pattern that can lead to a meaningful purpose?

If we do a personal investigation in today’s society, it will not take much to discover that we are living in an emotionally-oriented world. Music and its lyrics with specific messages gear both the youth and adults toward an unpleasant emotional conflict.

“Let your heart lead you,” “Live the moment,” “You hurt my feelings,” “You broke my heart,” (and the list continues), show that our world is composed of prodigal sons and daughters that are seeking compassion, being far away from the presence of our Eternal Father.

The article you are reading is intended to meet the needs of a class of people that is really seeking for eternal happiness. How important is to control our feelings and emotions? Is that even possible? Has there ever been a moment when such a thought has crossed your mind?

When I was young, I believed that it was normal to let my emotions—and implicitly my thoughts—to fly everywhere. I did not think for a second that I could control my thoughts and emotions—until I found a very interesting statement written by a 19th-century author: “It is a positive duty to resist melancholy, discontented thoughts and feelings—as much a duty as it is to pray.”1

This statement fell on me like thunder. I never believed that I would ever be able to achieve such a feat as to control my thoughts and emotions. I did not even conceive that such a thing would ever be possible. However, after reflecting deeper on the subject, I was determined to try. It was not easy. Later, I happened to stumble upon another text of the same nature that encouraged me to go ahead in my attempt to control my thoughts, emotions and feelings: “Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise.”2

If we go step by step on the pattern of the subject, we realize that, first, it’s our responsibility to control our thoughts and feelings—and after that, the actions which are the result of our thoughts and emotions. But after we manage to control them, our mind becomes very selective and our thinking will reflect the individuality of a free man. People that cannot control their thoughts and emotions are unconsciously in a state of slavery.

Many blame circumstances or maybe the fact that life is not just. Some people blame disappointments and other “x” factors, and that is why most of us abandon the contest. The apostle Paul emphasizes the question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). He then mentions circumstances from his own experience: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39).

Even though the text is a couple of thousands of years old, it is still very real and matches the needs of today’s society. “A man at peace with God and his fellow men cannot be made miserable.”3 

In recent years, medical science and other branch-related sciences have analyzed the adjustment of the human mind to the speed of century and to the stress that occurs as a consequence: According to a recent report, it looks like “13% of Americans take antidepressants.”4

Far from “the good old days”

Positive thinking became a significant point of discussion only about 70 years ago. Before then, the country people would have a little bench to rest on after coming in from the field, taking time to converse with the neighbors and socialize in a decent spirit. Today, to say “Hi” to your neighbor makes you look strange.

In those days, general transportation was done with horses for the “first class” people (or cattle for the “economy class”). In spite of these means, our forefathers were always on time. Today we have replaced the horse speed of 15 miles per hour with nice, fancy cars, and yet we are late to our meetings and our business much of the time.

In those days, our grandparents would not secure the doors when they went to work. Today we have security doubled by video surveillance. The world is changing rapidly, and the problem is that we cannot keep up with the speed. What is sad is that in this marathon for comfort, the human race is losing its human qualities.

We lose our temper more often, we cannot control our anger and form a very sick society of individuals, walking on the streets as a multitude lost in an immensely cold, concrete empire. Studies show that a five-minute episode of anger is so stressful that it can impair your immune system for more than six hours. All of these trigger health issues that can lead to more serious problems such as heart attacks and stroke. Today’s medical science links the relationship between positive thinking and good health, underlining more and more the fact that being nicer is healthier while hate often decreases the quality of life. Stress is believed to be a serious element in the birth and development of illnesses, starting with insomnia and digestive disorders, and eventually leading to cancer.

Kindness is chemical. When we turn our hatred into love—or at least, kindness, our brain releases chemicals such as dopamine, which can improve our mood. On a biochemical level, it is perceived that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural form of morphine and heroin, which we know as endogenous opioids. They generate a high level of dopamine, so we get our good mood or natural good disposition.

“We all seek a path to happiness,” says Dr. Waguih William IsHak, a professor of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai. “Practicing kindness toward others is one we know works.”5

But what we need to realize is that acts of kindness must be repeated till they become a habit. When that happens, we are born again. New thinking will generate new people. Yes, born to serve. Every act of kindness sustains our positiveness for a while—that is why we need a repetition of that act of kindness to give us a boost for the day. Consequently, these acts of kindness will change our nature entirely and transform us into better people.

Somehow the world of modern science is drawing closer to the Scripture, forced by the power of human reality nearer to the initial design of the Creator. At this stage, science is very interested in regard to how we should interact with each other in order to avoid an apocalyptic chaos.

In order to produce acts of kindness, we need to produce total control of our thoughts. Positive thinking it’s a healthy way of checking the traffic of our mind. If we don’t care about what we think, the mind will not care about what we become.

The Bible warns of the “trash in, trash out” form of marketing: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45).

In this biblical context, the heart is a symbol of emotional intelligence; it is obvious that the physical heart does not have a brain. But the Scripture recognizes the heart as the first “emotional sensor” of our body. As soon as the amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain, sparks a reaction of our thoughts, an emotional movement is triggered and the very first physical perception is the heart through the most sensitive nerve connected to the brain.

Enter the Saviour!

The best exercise to flex the “brain muscles” in this respect is believe in a miracle. We call it PRAYER. Based on my personal experience, one hour of prayer can change the mood and the disposition of the individual to harmonize with the disposition of Jesus. When we talk to Him as we talk to a friend, we become more like Him. Naturally we’ll share His words, we’ll borrow His vocabulary, we’ll smile like Him, we’ll behave like Him—even in critical moments—and ultimately, we will love our enemies as He did.

You see, my brethren, when we pray, we talk to God—and when we read the Bible, He talks to us. A refined and balanced mind is always the result of human friendship with divinity. Prayer is chemical.

Staying on the right side

“We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1). Jesus is on the right side of the throne of God, because on this side is faith, mercy, love compassion. The right side is the side of positive thinking. That is why Jesus is our defender. He finds the solution for the sinner in the most impossible circumstances. What a beautiful example of encouraging attitude towards those who are in peril!

Jesus does not gossip nor evil surmise; rather in opposition to the majority He finds a solution to every problem. His words show that for every problem there is a solution.

Remember the experience of the woman accused of adultery in John chapter 8—and Christ’s responds to the charge of the hypocrites with the words: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” And after the deep silence so painful to the accusers, the Lord reveals the solution for the problem as well: “Woman, where are those your accusers? has no man condemned you? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more” (John 8:7–11).

The biblical brain

The left side is always representing the side of negative thinking, gossiping, and backbiting—and ultimately is the side of the accusers of our brethren. In the light of these words, we can surprise ourselves in daily life, either on the right side of Jesus or on the left side of Jesus. There is an interesting confirmation of such a case: “Some doubted. So it will ever be. There are those who find it hard to exercise faith, and they place themselves on the doubting side. These lose much because of their unbelief. If they would control their feelings, and refuse to allow doubt to bring a shadow over their own minds and the minds of others, how much happier and more helpful they would be. They close the door to many blessings that they might enjoy if they would refuse to place themselves on the doubting, and would, instead, talk hope and courage.”6 

There was a critical time in the life of the disciples, when they were overwhelmed by discouragement and unbelief. They were successful fishers for many years and had sufficient experience to earn an income from this work, but as never before, on that night they experienced a failure. Pulling the empty net out of the water they did not see any future in their life. But all of a sudden, they heard a voice coming from the shore: “Cast the net on the right side of the ship.” They did not notice that they had cast the net on the opposite side, and now Jesus insisted for them to make a second attempt by casting the net on the right side of the ship. “Jesus had a purpose in bidding them cast their net on the right side of the ship. On that side He stood upon the shore. That was the side of faith.”7 The right side is the side of faith, the side of positive thinking, while the left side is the side of doubt—the opposite side from where Jesus is.

We learn from this event that as long as we are overwhelmed with discouragement and are in a depressed mood, we cannot convert anybody to Christ. It is very important to have that positive thinking, an uplifted spirit and to be on the side of Jesus in any circumstance, especially when we introduce the Gospel to other people. In reality we have to share with the people something that we have and they don’t. That very something is the atmosphere of heaven carried with us wherever we go. That is our peace, our rest in Jesus. The happiness we have in Jesus, the very something people see in us and crave for: “Give me this water” (John 4:15) in order to avoid having to come back to the well.

The Scripture brings out a few precious pearls in regard to this subject. “Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side” (Ezekiel 47:2). [Emphasis added.]

The water of life was running on the right side of the gate. They are healing waters and everything that has a positive property comes from the right side. As with the waters, so the law of God is not given with the left hand but with the right hand: “and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand [went] a fiery law for them” (Deuteronomy 33:2). [Emphasis added.]

The Gospel—the Good News—always comes from the right side of the altar. ”And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense” (Luke 1:11). [Emphasis added.]

All these specifications are not accidental in the Scripture. They have a meaning. To be on the right side means to be on the side of Jesus, on the side of faith, on the side of defending people instead of accusing them. Being on the right side means to be on the side of the erring, which means to be on the side of mercy. There will always be people yielding on the left side while others will choose the right side. For instance, “Judas pressed next to Christ on the left side; John was on the right. If there was a highest place, Judas was determined to have it, and that place was thought to be next to Christ. And Judas was a traitor.”8

Why was Judas on the left side of Christ? Because, he “cultivated a disposition to criticize and accuse.”9 John was on the right side of Jesus, reforming his thinking according to the mind of Christ. It is true that somewhere in time he had requested fire from heaven to destroy the rejecters of Christ’s message but how changed was he now! It is amazing to realize how he reached the state of filtering his negative thoughts and allowing the Spirit of God to mold and reshape his thinking. While Judas became totally evil, John became totally noble to the point of being recognized as the apostle of love, writing the Gospel of love.

In our daily encounter with our personal human nature we ourselves are the decisive factors in what we want to become. Under any circumstances, we cannot blame Jesus or our Heavenly Father for an eventual arbitrary choice. Jesus did not selectively accept John while rejecting Judas. It was a personal choice. As we read above, Judas cultivated the disposition to criticize and accuse. That means that he found perverse satisfaction—a sort of pleasure—in those brain functionalities to the point where he was adversely transformed by his own way of thinking.

More examples

I am sure that the reader remembers the two thieves on the cross. One was on the right side of Jesus; the other was on the left. In the providence of God, Jesus was placed in the middle, according to the Roman custom to be viewed the greatest sinner among the three. We know that the one on the left engaged in the dialogue with the Lord without any faith in the Saviour, “One of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:39–42). [Emphasis added.]

This is a very clear example in which we can see how the negative thinking of the left side malefactor affected his final destiny, while the positive thinking of the one on the right shows the virtue of a man who wanted to be saved. It was not by accident that one was on the left and the other was on the right side of the Saviour—it was the providence of God that proves in His infinite wisdom that in the end we are the artisans of our own decisions. So, the scenario is repeated with every person that has ever considered salvation as a priority. Judas loved Jesus, but he loved money more than Jesus. John loved power, but he loved Jesus more, and at the end they both made their irreversible and eternal choice. In fact, the phenomenon on the cross is nothing else but another version of Judas on the left and John on the right.

In Matthew chapter 25, the day of judgment is described: “And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:32, 33). [Emphasis added.]

In this chapter, we see the biblical coherency on this matter. Jesus shall separate people one from another based on exactly same criteria, positive-thinking people to the right, acting like sheep and thinking like sheep and knowing the voice of the Shepherd—while on the opposite side, the negative-thinking people are acting like goats and thinking as goats, not being capable of recognizing the voice of the Shepherd.

We are coming back to the actions emphasized by the Great Judge: “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matthew 25:35, 36).

Kindness is the chemical that makes us happy and justifies the purpose of our existence. The people that are on the right side of the throne of glory are on the right side of Christ; they were not looking to themselves to see whether or not they were good, they will have continually depended on the grace of Christ in prayer and benevolence, their character is as the character of the Saviour, and guess what? They are not aware of how good they are. The closer to Christ, the farther we are from self. “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?” (Matthew 25:37).

These are unable to identify in their life the moments of their charity, neither their acts of kindness and compassion, and do you know why? Because these acts of charity were not sporadic moments of their life, but rather a permanent behavior; they were born to serve—and that is what heaven is!

In the whole immeasurable and immaculate universe of God, everything serves the purpose of its creation. In the kingdom of God there is not personal interest, but rather interest for the well-being of others. If we want to be there, then let us be here on the right side first!

How can I, a sinner, be on the right side?

To properly address this question, we have to bring this statement to the highest level of understanding, observing the missionary spirit of these actions. Jesus was not ashamed to identify Himself with our physical and spiritual needs. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3, 4).

There are many ways by which we can follow the pattern shown in Matthew 25:p>

“I was an hungred” for the word of God, and you gave me meat; you studied the Bible with me: I was thirsty for a change in my life, I was thirsty for eternal happiness, happiness that will never expire, and you gave me to drink from that happiness, to take this water of life and drink from it freely. When I was a stranger, visiting your church for the first time, being new in the town, you said “Hi!” to me and befriended me, making known my presence to the congregation, and you took me in. When I was “naked,” you presented to me the beauty of Christ our righteousness and you helped me to be clothed with His character: when I was sick in my spiritual life and had lost or was just about to lose my faith, having stopped coming to church for a while, you visited me. Even after I was disfellowshipped and I gave up church and church gave up on me, you did not abandon me; you still visited me. When I was in prison for the truth’s sake, when the people did not have courage to associate with me because I was “spiritually quarantined,” you were not embarrassed to come to eat with me at the same table.

An illustration from history

Henry Gerecke was an American Army Chaplain who ministered to the Nazi war criminals in the Trials of Nuremberg. He was one of the few that could cast the net on the right side of the throne of God, accepting to share the gospel of forgiveness to the 21 war criminals that had been sentenced for execution at midnight on October 15, 1946. Confronted with hate letters from the side of his American countrymen, accused of being a Nazi lover, he still went ahead in spite of such gross defiance, and went ahead and nurtured these people with the Word of God, visiting their cells, praying with them and appealing to their hearts on a daily basis. At first it was not easy. Some of these people were very cold, despising him, saying that they had no consideration or respect for that Jew who claimed to be the Son of God. Working under adverse conditions, ridiculed by the prisoners on one side and facing disapproval from his co-nationals, Henry went ahead and prayed for each one of these individuals.

Soon the results began to be visible. One of the first who fell at the foot of the cross was the notorious slaver Fritz Sauckel, who had been chief of the forced labor department. He felt that he had done his job without any idea of committing wrong against God or man. Eventually, after attending the service in the chapel, he approached Gerecke, inviting him to his cell. Hearing the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ and His love for sinners, Sauckel’s heart was touched. He implored the chaplain to pray for him. Without fear and without shame he was praying with the missionary. The last words of his prayer were: “Lord, be merciful unto me a sinner.” Sincerely converted, he was wondering what he could do to reverse the tremendous evil he had produced. At the end he accepted the chance to participate in the communion service. One man that shifted sides for Christ! From the man that would use his propaganda to instigate hatred, shifted sides, from the left side of accusing and exterminating to the right side of the throne of Majesty. Christ had touched his heart, and as the thief on the cross received the Saviour, so Fritz Sauckel received salvation.

The second one that fell on the rock and switched sides from the left to the right, was Hitler’s closest military advisor, Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel. During the hours of studying the Bible, he was memorizing many Bible verses—especially those that emphasized the mercy of God. One of the most extraordinary evidences of his true conversion was the fact that he was not embarrassed to kneel down by his bedside and confess his sins one by one. Before his time of execution, he thanked Gerecke with these words: “You have helped me more than you know. May Christ, my Saviour, stand by me all the way. I shall need Him so much.” He received communion and afterwards he was hanged. He took the side of faith, which is the right side of the throne of God. It is the side of mercy and forgiveness; it’s the side of the Saviour.

Keitel took the side of John the beloved on the right side of Jesus, while Hermann Goering took the side of Judas, rejecting Christ as his personal Saviour. When Gerecke pleaded with him to “surrender your heart and soul completely to your Saviour, Herr Reichsmarshal” Goering remained on the left side, the side of the accuser, by saying: “I cannot do that. This Jesus you always speak of—to me he’s just another clever Jew.”

To be on the right side is to be capable of loving your enemies and proving it. Henry Gerecke’s two sons died on the western front. And is spite of that, he went ahead to love and pray for people that were part of that system that was responsible for the killing of his sons. It is very probable that people like Henry Gerecke will be on the right side of the throne of majesty.

The Bible says that: “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

Another lesson for us in order to be on the right side of Jesus among the sheep—and not among the goats—is to always err on the side of mercy, that is always the right side of the throne of glory. Heaven will unveil to us many surprises and a specific one is specified in the book, , where the author says: “Nearest the throne are those who were once zealous in the cause of Satan, but who, plucked as brands from the burning, have followed their Saviour with deep, intense devotion. Next are those who perfected Christian characters in the midst of falsehood and infidelity, those who honored the law of God when the Christian world declared it void, and the millions, of all ages, who were martyred for their faith. And beyond is the ‘great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,’ . . . ‘before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands’ (Revelation 7:9). Their warfare is ended, their victory won. They have run the race and reached the prize.”10

It is up to us if we want to use our mind in order to produce positive thoughts constructive to our faith or not to use our mind at all—and by default, the weeds of negativity will place us on the left side of the murmurers and complainers, ruining our chance to heaven.

In the whole immeasurable and immaculate universe of God, everything serves the purpose of its creation. In the kingdom of God there is not personal interest, but the interest for the well-being of others. Since this subject will be continued in the next issue of , let us pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will be at our side and we be on His right side of faith.

References
1 The Ministry of Healing, p. 251.
2 Ibid.
3 Our Father Cares, p. 50.
4 TIME magazine: https://time.com/4900248/antidepressants-depression-more-common/
5 https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/science-of-kindness.html
6 The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 5, p. 1110. [Emphasis added.]
7 The Desire of Ages, p. 811.
8 40 Ibid., p. 644 [Emphasis added.]
9 Ibid., p. 717. [Emphasis added.]
10 The Great Controversy, p. 665.