Not a back-up plan
Sound thoughts - there are days when we'd give our eye teeth to have any settled or organized methods to our thoughts. Try as we might, the world spins out of control, causing a flurry of input into our brains, sometimes placing our "internal hard drive" to spin out of control, as well! It as though we get files crossed, our working parts overheat, and we just want to shut down, like the malfunctioning computer on a desktop experiencing this type of "failure mode". If we think the human brain isn't much different than a computer hard drive, we all can associate with this illustration. What keeps our thoughts in a place of being "ordered" and "reliable"? It might just be as simple as where we choose to focus first - much like the computer with all the various components of input. A computer will not work correctly and will get all "jumbled up" if we just hit willy-nilly commands and expect it to respond. We will get "not responding" messages all the time if this occurs, often requiring either a task manager closure of the various "working operations", or a total "hard boot" to get the device functioning in order again. It isn't unlike this with us and God - if we need a hard boot, he takes us into those spans of time when we finally recognize spinning out of control isn't doing it for us!
Those with sound thoughts you will keep in peace, in peace because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3 CEB)
When we say something appears "sound", we are saying it is at a minimum giving us the appearance of being in good working order - doing what it is designed to do. At work this past week, we had a malfunction resulting in a power outage which took quite a while to get back to fully operational status. It wasn't really the fault of the facility, but the room size transformer outside of the building which fried to a crisp. In the resulting hours after the initial blackness hit the building, emergency power generators were able to support nearly the entire operation of the facility, with many safety mechanisms deployed to make sure all was well with each of our patients. It is normal operating procedure in emergency situations to deploy all hands to get the situation under control quickly and ensure no danger to the patients. We prepare for this on an ongoing basis and have not only emergency back-up power sources, but back-ups to the back-ups. Yet in the ensuing moments after the blackout occurs, there is organized chaos as all hands scramble to ensure all is well with everyone in the building. Our mission - to make it appear as though all is as it should be and to not cause any concern for our patients, families, or employees.
We all know there is more to an issue than what it appears, though. There are always those "behind the scenes" taking place, much like the computer software which runs in the background at break-neck speed while I type these words this morning. I can hear the hard drive spinning, fan kicking in, short pauses in the speed of responsiveness to the wireless transfer of information, etc. All appears to be normal, but we all know there are times in life when the "appearance" of having things all together and functioning appropriately is really a smoke-screen for organized chaos internally! When it comes to our thoughts during those moments of extreme stress, we often may not maintain the same level of "sound appearance" as we may on most "normal days". Try as we might, stress places an impact which bears out in some action, words, or even the non-verbal evidence we see in one's face or eyes. Yet, I want us to see clearly what our writer reminds us of in our passage today - it isn't that WE are in control of our peace - it is that we are AT peace because we are focused on the only one who can really control the situation!
Sound thoughts are not a matter of us keeping it together in times of stress. They are directly linked to who it is we find our peace IN - if we place both our internal and external stress-inducers into the hands of Jesus, we will recognize internal peace "keeping" us steady even in the face of the worst of stressors. Peace begins with trust - where it is we place our trust. When I count on the right source for my peace, I stand a better chance of actually realizing and living in peace! Place trust in an unreliable source and peace will be elusive. Sound thoughts are a result of rightly placed trust - plain and simple. When we know who it is who orders our steps and plans our pathway, we can recognize an ordering of our thoughts, as well. Chaotic thought is not of God - it is because we have our trust in something or someone other than him. It might be we are trusting in our own abilities or reasoning to sort things out; or perhaps we rely upon some external source to keep things rolling along smoothly. As I indicated above in my illustration of the power interruption at work, if the trust was placed in the one source of power (the power company) and nothing else, we'd be in a mess. We have sources behind our sources which "build in" a degree of reliability to our processes and we sort through the actions which will be taken before they actually need to be taken.
To rely upon any source outside of God is to rely upon a source which will fail us at one time or another. Unlike our emergency generator sources, God should never be our "back-up" plan. He should be our primary plan - so that we need never experience any interruption in our "power source" in times of stress! I often speak about our focus in life - simply because I know focus determines destination. If our thoughts turn to him FIRST instead of as a "back up", we will realize daily, moment-by-moment peace. The world might be presenting chaois to us, but it need not influence the internal peace and soundness of our thoughts which come when we are "rightly focused". Just sayin!