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Empty Out the Negative: Make Room for More Joy, Greater Confidence, and New Levels of Influence
by Joel Osteen
Learn More | Meet Joel Osteen
Empty Out the Negative
It’s easy to go through life holding on to things that weigh us down—guilt, resentment, doubt, worry. The problem is, when we allow these negative emotions in, they take up space we need for the good things that should be there. Imagine your life is like a container. You were created to be filled with joy, peace, confidence, and creativity. But if you allow worry in, it pushes out the peace. There’s not space for both. You can’t go above 100-percent capacity; you have a limited amount of space. If you allow guilt to take up space, that’s space you don’t have for the confidence you need.
The reason some people don’t enjoy their lives is because their container, or their heart, is contaminated with so many things. They have 10 percent filled with worry, being stressed out over their job; 12 percent bitterness, being mad at their neighbor; 20 percent guilt, beating themselves up for past mistakes; 9 percent jealousy, thinking their coworker is more beautiful. They don’t realize 70 percent of their container is negative. Yet they wonder why they don’t have joy, creativity, and passion. They only have room for 30 percent of the good things they should have.
The Scripture says, “Give no place to the enemy.” That’s not just talking about the forces of darkness. That means to give no place to guilt. Give no place to worry. Give no place to bitterness. Those contaminants can’t come in and automatically take over. You control what’s in your container. You control what you think about and what you choose to allow in. We all have negative emotions, negative feelings. But you have to make the choice that says, “I’m not going to give this jealousy, this bitterness, or this anger valuable space and let it poison my life. I’m going to protect what I allow in my heart.”
Every morning when we wake up, we need to empty out anything negative from the day before. If somebody offended you at work, and they didn’t treat you right, it’s easy to let that offense stay with you. It can feel good to carry around a grudge. But you have to be disciplined and say, “No, I am not giving this offense any room. I am not going to let it sour my day.” That person hurt you once. Don’t let that person continue to hurt you by holding on to the offense. Being offended is not harming the other person; it’s harming you. It’s taking up space you need for the good things that will move you toward your destiny.
Let’s say you wake up in the morning and thoughts of worry come. How are you going to pay your bills? What if the medical report’s not good? You’ ll never get out of this problem. Don’t allow these negative thoughts in. Don’t make the mistake of dwelling on them. Just say, “No, thanks. I know God is in control. He has me in the palms of His hands. He’ll get me to where I’m supposed to be.” Take inventory of what you’re giving space to. Life is too short for you to live with negative things holding you down.
Make Room for the Good Things
David says in Psalm 103, “God fills my life with good things so I stay young and strong.” I’ve learned that if you empty out the negative, if you make room, God will fill you with good things. If you empty out the worry, God will fill you with peace. If you empty out the insecurity and the negative things people have said about you, God will fill you with confidence. My question to you is: Is God trying to fill you with good things but there’s no room? Is your container full of worry, regret, bitterness, and jealousy? Why don’t you start emptying that out? If somebody did you wrong, you could hang on to that bitterness; instead you need to say, “God, I forgive them. I let it go.” You didn’t just forgive. You made room for God to fill you with good things. That’s when He’ll give you beauty for ashes and joy for mourning.
Perhaps you’re in a tough season. The medical report wasn’t good. You should be stressed and worried; instead you say, “God, I trust You. You said You would restore health to me.” You just made room for God to fill you with healing. You empty out the worry, and God will give you peace in the midst of the storm.
Perhaps a coworker got the promotion you worked so hard for. Envy and jealousy will come. “I wish that were me. I’m smarter than he is. I don’t understand that.” Instead of letting that jealousy stay, you need to say, “God, I know You’re no respecter of persons. You got the promotion for him, and I know You can do it for me.” The good news is, God doesn’t run out of favor. He doesn’t have a limited supply. If you empty out the jealousy, then when it’s your time to be promoted, God will open doors that no man can shut. If somebody got what you wanted, that simply means it wasn’t supposed to be yours. If someone else got the promotion, be happy for that person. God has something better for you. If someone else got the person you wanted to date, don’t be upset. God knows what He’s doing. If it worked out your way, that person would be second best. The bottom line is, what has your name on it is not going to go to anyone else. Don’t go around bitter, with jealousy, in self-pity—that will poison your life. Empty it out. God is in control. He’s directing your steps, and at the right time, what has your name on it will show up.
God promises that if we make room, He will not only fill us with good things, but He will keep us young and strong. The reason some people are not young and strong—I don’t mean just young physically, but young in spirit, vibrant and passionate about life—is because they’re filled with the negative. Worry will make you weak. Living stressed out will make you old, give you wrinkles, and take your passion. Being bitter, angry, and resentful will shorten your life. Proverbs says, “A relaxed attitude lengthens life.” You can be eighty years old and young at heart. Your spirit never ages.
I met a woman in the church lobby a while back. It was her hundredth birthday. She was standing there dressed impeccably, looking beautiful, with hardly any wrinkles, and full of joy. Her mind was as sharp as can be. I asked her what her secret was so I could tell Victoria. She said, “I don’t worry. I let things go, and I laugh a lot.” She’s lived by this principle. But you know that in her hundred years, she had troubles, people hurt her, and she made mistakes. Life happened. Offenses came, but she didn’t hold on to them. She kept emptying them out, and as God promised, He filled her life with good things and kept her young and strong.
I don’t want to get old, grouchy, grumpy, and fall apart. I want to stay young, strong, good-looking, and full of faith, joy, and energy. The way this happens is to give no place to the negative. Get in the habit of emptying out the offenses. Empty out the worry. If you make a mistake, empty out the guilt. If you didn’t do your best, empty out the regret. Do better next time. If nobody gave you credit for what you did, empty out the self-pity. If you had a bad break, and you don’t understand it, empty out the questions. If you get good at emptying out the negative, you’ll be like that woman—strong, young, vibrant, full of faith and full of joy.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” The word pure in the original language is where we get our word catharsis from, which means “cleansing, releasing, purifying.” If you have surgery, sometimes the doctor will put in a catheter. A catheter is a tube that drains out the impurities in the body, and it comes from the same root word as catharsis. A catheter automatically takes what’s not beneficial—the toxins, the infections, the waste—and flushes them out of the body. The doctor knows there will be contaminants. He’s not alarmed that the body has waste and infection. He’s only alarmed when it’s not being released, when we’re holding on to things that should be flushed out. When God says, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” He’s saying, “You’re going to be blessed when you learn how to release the impurities of life like a catheter does, when you get in a habit of emptying out things that will infect you.”
Do you know what bitterness is to our spirit? It’s an infection. Guilt is an infection. Worry, doubt, and self-pity are infections. These things are not unusual. Impurities come to us all. But you have to push them out. It’s when we hold on to them that they contaminate our spirit and cause us problems. You weren’t created to carry around guilt, regret, bitterness, and anger—that poisons your life.
“Joel, I’m bitter because I had a bad break.” “I’m sour because somebody walked out on me.” I say this respectfully: That’s simply an impurity. Why don’t you release it so it doesn’t infect the rest of your life? Don’t let a disappointment, a divorce, a layoff, or a loss poison your future. “I’m worried about my health. I’m worried about my finances. I’m worried about my children.” Worry is a part of life. Those thoughts come to us all. The key is to not hold on to them. Recognize that they’re not beneficial; they’re not moving you forward. That’s an impurity that wasn’t meant to stay. You have to release it. “God, I don’t see a way, but I know You’re still on the throne. I know You’re bigger than this problem. I know You’re supplying all my needs.” You just released the toxin.
Are you holding on to an infection? To impurities? Are you angry? Jealous? Worried? Discouraged? Maybe you had a disappointment, something didn’t work out. Imagine there’s an angel who has a delivery package with your name on it. It says, “Beauty for ashes, new beginnings, new opportunities, and new friendships.” He’s en route with those good things. The problem is, if you’re holding on to the old, there’s no place for him to deliver it. I wonder how many things are en route right now. The angel is standing by with our joy, our peace, our confidence, our creativity, or our spouse, but there’s no room. Because we’re not releasing the toxins—the anger, the bitterness, the jealousy, the worry—he can’t deliver those good things. Instead of living blessed and excited about our future, we’ve become infected. The good news is, you can get rid of that infection. It is not permanent. If you start releasing the regret, the worry, the bitterness, or the anger, it’s just a matter of time before that angel shows up with your delivery. When you make room, God promises He will fill your life with good things.
Keep Your Heart Pure
This is what David did. He was an expert at emptying out the negative. As a young man, his family looked down on him and treated him like he was second-class. He could have let that infection take root and lived insecure. Instead, he let it go in one ear and out the other. He knew that if he held on to it, it would keep him from his destiny. Later, David went to the palace and served King Saul faithfully. When Saul was sick, David would play the harp to help him feel better. In return, Saul tried to kill him. Saul was jealous of David, chased him through the desert, and made his life miserable for many years. David could have become bitter and thought, What’s the use? Everybody’s against me. Life is not fair. But instead he kept his heart pure and emptied out the self-pity.
As David did, we all have impurities and infections that come. People come against us for no reason. Our plans don’t always work out. It’s easy to think, Why is this happening to me? It’s just life. The Scripture says, “Offenses will come.” They’re not a problem unless you don’t know what to do with them. Too many people make the mistake of holding on to them. They get bitter, live guilty, and get a chip on their shoulder. That’s going to poison your future. You have to release the toxins of life. You may not be able to keep them from coming, but you can keep them from staying. David had a pure heart. That means he kept the infections out. It doesn’t mean that he was perfect. David made mistakes. He committed adultery and had the woman’s husband killed. For one year he tried to cover it up. He was so overwhelmed with guilt and condemnation that he became physically sick and weak. That poison started to infect every part of his life. He finally admitted his mistake. He repented and asked God to forgive him, and things began to turn around. Once he got the infection out, his health was restored.
When you make a mistake, and we all do, don’t run away from God. Don’t try to hide it. Go to God and repent. That means to not keep doing the same thing. And then ask for forgiveness. Here’s the key: You have to receive God’s mercy. The enemy is called “the accuser of the brethren.” He’ll remind you of every mistake you’ve made for the last thirty years.
It’s easy to live your life in regrets, thinking about what you should have done differently. I should have raised my children better. I should have been more faithful in my marriage. I should have finished college. Don’t go through life looking in the rearview mirror, being down on yourself, living in regrets. You can’t do anything about the past, but you can do something about right now. Being against yourself doesn’t help you do better; it pushes you down. The moment you asked God to forgive you, He forgave you. Why don’t you forgive yourself? Why don’t you empty out the guilt? Why don’t you turn off the accusing voices? The Scripture says God doesn’t remember your mistakes anymore. If someone is bringing up the negative things of your past, it’s not God; that’s the accuser trying to deceive you into living condemned.
Unforgiveness Is Like a Poisonous Toxin
How much space are you giving to guilt, to shame, to regret, to being against yourself? Whatever it is, it’s too much. You need that space for the good things God has for you that will move you toward your destiny. If you’re giving space to guilt, you will not have the confidence you need to move forward, which will cause you to fail again. It’s a negative cycle. The only way to break the cycle is to rise up and say, “That’s it. I am done living in the past, focused on my mistakes, reliving my failures, and beating myself up. This is a new day. I’m emptying out all that infection. I’m going to receive God’s mercy.” You have to do this by faith, because every voice will tell you that you’re a hypocrite. “God’s not going to forgive you. Look what you’ve done.” It doesn’t have anything to do with what you have or haven’t done. It has to do with what Jesus has already done.
“Joel, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I don’t deserve to be blessed.” None of us deserve it. This is what mercy is all about. That’s why it’s called the “Good News.” Your sins have already been forgiven. You don’t have to pay God back for your mistakes, because the price has already been paid. When you fall, don’t stay down; get back up. When the accuser whispers, “Look at you. You blew it again. You’ll never get it right,” just answer back, “Yes, I know I’m not perfect, but I am forgiven. I may not be where I should be, but I’m making progress. I’m moving forward. I’m not where I used to be.” Don’t let guilt poison your future. Empty it out.
Sometimes it’s hard to empty out the negative. When a person does us wrong, our human nature wants to hold on to the hurt, to become bitter, and carry around a grudge. We think, I’m not going to forgive them. They don’t deserve it. But you’re not forgiving for their sake; you’re forgiving for your sake. As long as you hold on to the hurt, the anger, and the bitterness, it’s not affecting the other person; it’s infecting you. Unforgiveness is like a poisonous toxin. It may feel good to hold on to it, but it will contaminate your life. However, I realize there are times that the right kind of anger is necessary, but what I want you to watch out for is negative anger.
Oftentimes the reason we don’t forgive is because what the other person did was wrong. They were clearly at fault. But when you forgive, you’re not excusing their behavior. You’re not lessening the offense; you’re simply getting the poison out of you. You have to forgive so you can be free. Quit looking at it as though you’re doing them a favor. You’re doing yourself a favor, because it takes a lot of emotional energy to hold a grudge, to live with unforgiveness. You wake up, and it’s always on your mind; you’re thinking about how someone did you wrong. You may not realize it, but you are spending emotional energy that you need for your dreams, for your goals, for your children. You won’t become all you were created to be if you are wasting emotional energy on things that don’t matter. That unforgiveness is an impurity. Yes, what they did was wrong, but you have to let it pass. You have to release it. When you do, you’ll not only feel a new freedom and have more energy, but God will be your vindicator. He will make your wrongs right. You don’t have to pay people back. You’re not the judge; God is. Leave it up to Him, and He’ll vindicate you better than you can vindicate yourself.
Just Get Past It
This is what Mary Johnson did. Mary is a single mother of one son. When her son was twenty years old, he was out late one night at a party when he was approached by a sixteen-year-old boy named Oshea Israel, whom he had never met before. Oshea had been drinking, and there was an altercation between them. In the heat of the moment, Oshea pulled out a gun and murdered Mary’s only son. She was so filled with anger and hatred that she told the judge that Oshea was an animal who needed to be caged. When he was only charged with second-degree murder, Mary was even angrier. She became a recluse, stayed in her house, and wouldn’t look at her son’s picture. Ten years passed.
Finally, Mary knew it was time to forgive. She could hear the still small voice telling her to let it go. She contacted the prison to see if she could visit Oshea. They said yes, but Oshea said no. He wouldn’t do it. She kept asking and asking, and finally he agreed. When she came into the prison and saw Oshea, he gave her a big hug and held on to her. They wept and wept. Mary said, “As I was embracing Oshea, I could feel hatred and bitterness rising up out of me and leaving my body.” It was so strong that she fell over, and Oshea had to hold her up. That day, Mary not only emptied out the unforgiveness, but she found a new son. Seven years later, Oshea was released on parole and didn’t have any place to live. Mary said, “You can live next door to me.” She calls him her “spiritual son.” Mary started an organization called “From Death to Life” to help bring healing and reconciliation between families of victims and those who have caused harm. Now she and Oshea go out together and speak at conferences and schools about forgiveness and overcoming loss.
Mary Johnson said what really helped her decide to forgive was a poem she read about two mothers in Heaven who had just become friends. One mother asked the other, “Who is your son?” She replied, “My son is Jesus. I’m Mary.” Then Mary asked, “Who is your son?” The other mother answered, “My son is Judas.” Hearing how Mary, the mother of Christ, had befriended the mother of Judas, and how they shared a common pain, Mary Johnson knew she had to reach out to Oshea’s family. Now she helps other mothers do the same thing. Out of your pain can come your purpose.
I saw a lady on television whose son had been killed in an accident many years earlier. They asked her how she was doing, and she made this statement: “You never really get over it, but you can get past it.” She was saying, “Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, there was a season of mourning, but you don’t have to stay in mourning. You don’t have to live bitter. You don’t have to get stuck in grief or depression. You can move forward.”
When you go through a loss, things happen that you don’t understand, and it’s easy to think, I just need to get over this. But sometimes that’s too strong. It can put more pressure on us. We think, Why do I feel this way? I must be doing something wrong. Take the pressure off. You don’t have to get over it; just get past it. Just keep moving forward, taking it one day at a time. God said that He will never give you something that you cannot handle. You may not understand why it happened, but the Scripture says, “God will give us a peace that passes understanding.” You’re not going to figure everything out. If you let go of the questions of life, you will have a peace that goes beyond what you can understand.
All the “Littles” Add Up to a Lot
Toward the end of Jesus’ life, He’d been betrayed by one of His disciples, mocked by the soldiers, and falsely accused of crimes. Now He was hanging on the cross, wearing a crown of thorns, about to breathe His last breath, when He did something significant. He could have just died and gone on to Heaven, and that was it. Instead, He said, “Father, before I go, I need to take care of one last thing: Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The religious leaders and Roman soldiers didn’t ask for forgiveness. They didn’t deserve it. Jesus was saying, “I’m not going to leave this earth with anything negative in Me.” He was showing us by example how we should release the toxins, release the impurities.
There is an old legend about Leonardo da Vinci. The legend says that when da Vinci was painting the portrait of Christ in his mural of the Last Supper, he could not make any progress as he tried to paint the face of Christ. The legend goes on to say that da Vinci finally realized that until he forgave another person for whom he held hatred in his heart, he could not complete his masterpiece. That’s what happens when we hold on to negatives. It stifles our creativity. We don’t do our best work. It’s because there’s infection that’s slowing us down.
Are you allowing negative things into your container? To reach the fullness of your destiny, you need to operate at your maximum potential. If you have a little bitterness, a little guilt, a little jealousy, plus a little worry in your heart, all the spaces of those “littles” add up to a lot, and you end up only operating at a fraction of what you could. I’m asking you to empty all that out. God is ready to fill your life with good things. He wants to keep you young and strong. Do your part and make room for Him. Every morning, empty out the guilt, empty out the worry, empty out the discouragement. And when the impurities come, when the infection comes, don’t let it stay. Let it pass on through. Keep your heart pure. If you do this, you’re going to step up to a new level with more joy, more peace, and more favor.
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