Joy: Extreme Thought Makeover

Posted: January 27, 2009 in christian growth, Joy

For My thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways My ways says the Lord.  for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

I love this scripture and I’ve heard it quoted a lot when people don’t understand something going on in their lives.  In fact, I’ve often heard it used as a rock-solid biblical excuse for spiritual paralysis or intellectual laziness.  The attitude is a little like: “Well God’s ways aren’t our ways, you know.  His ways are big and high and our ways are small and low – we’ll never figure out His will in a million years, so we might as well just do what we want to do and let Him fix the mess later.”    Yeah, it would be great to have a scripture that enables me to just stay in the shallow end of the kiddie pool; me and my cute, low-ness, just splashing around in my own humanity.

The problem with this scripture, however, is that the preceding sentences make it clear that God is not pointing out this Thoughts & Ways discrepancy to console the people of Israel, but to confront them.  Check out this not-that-friendly verse:

“Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return to the Lord and He will have love, pity and mercy on him, and to our God, for He will multiply to him abundant pardon.” Isaiah 55:7

God is clearly saying:  change your ways!  He is uncomfortable with the distance between our thoughts and His thoughts and we ought to be as well.

To “forsake” means to “loosen, relinquish or refuse.”  I know a lot of people who are scared to death of the economy right now – or totally buried under discouragement and depression.  The situation in our country is a reality; it’s part of the fallout of our fallen planet and there’s no question that it’s  a daunting season.  Repressing those thoughts won’t help much – but allowing them to take over is a bad idea too.  We need an answer, friends, and this verse has it!

Isaiah is shouting to us to loosen our grip on the temporary and move our eyes (and hearts) to things eternal and significant (things that are “beautiful in elevation”).  Sometimes I feel like worry is a virtue, but God says, “Nope, Bo, it’s low.”  It’s also really tempting to build easy escapes from difficult problems, but that will keep us tied to the low ways of terra firma and we’ll find our hope, joy and perspective held hostage by our circumstances.

Colossians 3:1 If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…

I’ve found that my thinking doesn’t change overnight, but rather by a thought-by-thought by thought renewing (which means “renovation” in the Greek).  As I continually remind myself of His position – His “above-ness” – I am able to deal with a thought of fear or discouragement or hopelessness and replace it with thankfulness and eternal perspective and peace.  Recently, I was dealing with the heavy weight of a negative situation and I felt the Holy Spirit say, “If this situation has become bigger in your thoughts than the resurrection of Jesus, then you need to change your mind about a lot of things, sister.”  Ouch.  And true.

Sometimes, I really just want joy to “fall”.    But joy must be pursued and it often isn’t found at ground level.  In order to know true, lasting, powerful joy, I have to be willing to get up out of the muck, push my eyes up above the swirling storm and find a safe place in His shelter, high above my enemies.

Loving Thoughts that Lead to Joy,


  1. Ann Dunagan says:


    May my thoughts be transformed and renewed and changed by God’s thoughts!

    Good word, Bo!

  2. Jen Hoffmann says:

    I love the thought that God is ” uncomfortable with the distance between our thoughts and His thoughts and we ought to be as well.” That puts the relationship that he actually desires to have with me in such sharp focus. I think you’re right. Proverbs is full of admonitions to seek understanding, wisdom and knowledge, and nowhere in scripture do I find the idea that God’s wisdom is something I shouldn’t bother to reach for because it’s just too high, so that interpretation of Isaiah’s words just can’t be accurate.

    There’s a verse that has been ringing in my ears lately. It’s Proverbs 28:5 “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.” It sticks out to me because I look at the world around me, orphans, widows, slaves, slanderers, betrayers…and God’s justice seems so hard to find, and I think too often we give up trying to understand it and even give up trying to make a difference because it’s all just too confusing. God’s thoughts and ways are way beyond mine, after all, right? He’ll make it all right somehow…how can I possibly understand or help? But that attitude puts me squarely in the camp of “Evil men”. Those who seek the Lord UNDERSTAND his justice. Even if it’s a bigger concept than we’re used to dealing with (and it is-yikes!), we’re supposed to be coming an understanding of it and putting our hands to the task of executing it here in this place as best we can. Yes, His thoughts are higher than mine, that’s why we’re supposed to seek Him and find out what those thoughts are.

    Sorry Bo. I wrote a little blog entry there, didn’t I? Maybe it’s time to update my blog. lol.
    Good word. Thanks!!

  3. Jen Hoffmann says:

    …oh, and…I like how something called “What defines Sexy” happens to be one the “automatically generated related posts” to your thoughts on Christian joy. Gave me a good, hearty chuckle!

  4. bolovesjoe says:

    Oh, good thoughts, Jen…I needed to read that today as I try to “strengthen my hands” with regard to helping orphans.

    Perhaps we can brainstorm on a “Why Joy is Sexy” post for next week. 🙂 Hee. Heh.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Ann – I’m loaning your book out this week to one of my young adult girls and I’m excited for her to read it. She has a heart for orphans, adoption and raising a family ON mission…I think it’ll be good for her to get some vision for how it can really look. Such a great resource you wrote!

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