One day in the early 1990s, psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen had a hard day at the ofﬁce. He met with several patients, including four people who were suicidal, two teen runaways and two married couples who couldn’t stand each other. He came home that evening to a kitchen infested with ants. As he was cleaning up the critters, he imagined these insects’ name as an acronym for Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANT). He realized that, just as his kitchen was infested with ants, his patients’ brains were infested with automatic negative thoughts that destroyed their well-being.
I like to use Dr. Amen’s acronym this way: Automatic Negative Thinking Syndrome, or ANTS. When you automatically think about the worst-case scenario right off the bat, you’re suffering from an infestation of ANTS. This syndrome fuels negativity and incites depression. Instead of thinking positive thoughts or hoping for the best, we instantly think that the worst is going to happen. If a potential job opportunity comes our way, we assume we’re not qualiﬁed.
When the Israelites were freed from Egyptian slavery and were on their way to the Promised Land, they had ANTS on the brain: There’s no way we’re getting through the Red Sea. We’re not going to have enough to eat or drink. We’ve been at this forever; we’re never going to get there. The giants in the land are too big; they’ll never let us into the land.
What they didn’t think was: God brought us through Egypt; surely He can get us through a sea. It’s time for God to show off in another miracle. God did it once; He can do it again. He set us free before; now He is going to do greater things.
The Israelites’ thoughts automatically turned negative once they hit an obstacle. And I know the feeling. Back when I began my work as a pastor at Free Chapel, I was a bit insecure. I was familiar with the life of a traveling evangelist because I had done that for years. But pastoring was a whole new thing. At the time, I was starting to get to know our board of directors, and they were getting to know me.
A few months in, after an amazing church service, I walked through the hallway to get to my ofﬁce. I noticed four or ﬁve of the board members huddled up, whispering. As soon as they saw me, they broke it up really quickly. My ears burned, and I felt ANTS crawling up the side of my face. Immediately, the negativity took over my brain: They don’t like you. They’re talking about you. They’re not happy with all the changes you’re making in the church. For the next week, ANTS was all I could think about. I cried. I prayed. I even told Cherise we ought to be prepared to get ﬁred. I was ready for the worst.
The following Sunday, the same men who I was convinced were going to ﬁre me pulled me aside into a little room. I took a deep breath, preparing myself for a speech that would begin something like, “Before we start, let me just tell you something….”
One of the board members piped up before I had the chance: “Pastor, we love you and Cherise. We love your family. We’re having such a move of God in this church, and we wanted to do something for you and your growing family. We noticed that you need a van, and we have decided as a church to provide you with one.”
The man smiled as he gently pressed a set of car keys into the palm of my hand.
I was so ashamed, I almost didn’t receive it!
Don’t let ANTS infest your mind. We serve a powerful God. We serve a faithful God. He is not out to decimate, devour and destroy you. He is a good God. He is on your side. He is for you.
If you have an ANTS infestation, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Renew your mind with what God says in His Word. Read the Bible. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Soak in its truth. You’ll get rid of the Automatic Negative Thoughts Syndrome that way and start living with the right information instead.
Jentezen Franklin appears this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from Overcome When You Feel Overwhelmed by Jentezen Franklin. Copyright ©2022 by Jentezen Franklin. Published by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.