It doesn’t take much scrolling on social media to come across the concept of “manifesting” things in our lives. Sometimes it looks like the power of positive thinking or choosing "good vibes only". Sometimes it’s about the law of attraction, which purports that the magnetic power of your thoughts can bring you what you want. Sometimes it’s like Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret,” which is a 3-step process to achieving your desires. Some Pentecostal/Charismatic beliefs call this practice to “decree and declare,” which is basically a way to “force” God to do something for you by commanding Him rather than asking.1
For now, let’s just focus on #manifesting or #manifestation, as we see in memes and on social media today.
The concept of manifesting something is a belief that if you “will” it hard enough, you can make it happen. For example, you might say, “I want my parents to buy me a car.” Then, through the power of your thoughts, you can somehow influence “the universe” enough for your parents to buy you a car. Those who ascribe to an ultimate power (that isn't God) sometimes say things like, “The universe has my back.” As though “the universe” can look out for them and bring good things.
Our minds are complex and powerful tools. After centuries of study, science hasn’t even come close to fully understanding the human mind and how it works. But it IS proven that our mental well-being can influence our physical well-being—whether positively or negatively. Psychiatric illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been proven to be comorbid with cardiovascular disease.2 Studies show that replacing worrisome thoughts with positive outcomes decreases the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.3 So there’s something to be said about having good mental health to improve physical health.
The Bible advises that joy can be found by focusing on gratitude and peace and dwelling more upon the good than the bad (Philippians 4:4-9). We see in Proverbs 17:22 that “a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” If you tend to be a more positive person, you'll anticipate more positive outcomes. If you lean toward a negative outlook, you'll anticipate negative outcomes. Neither is “right” or “wrong,” but a balanced approach is usually much healthier.
So what’s the difference between simply having a positive outlook vs. manifesting your future vs. asking God to bring you good things? Is it better to head to school or work, telling yourself, “I’m going to have a good day today,” or attempt to manifest it by saying, “Today will be good,” or asking God, “Lord, please make today a good one”? Are they all the same? Are any of them a guarantee? Is one of these considered better than the others? Let’s look at the options:
You’re feeling good. You’re having a positive attitude. You’ve chosen to think about positive outcomes. The truth is that you may or may not have a good day, and you know that. Maybe you’re a bit anxious about running into a bully, but you're choosing not to pay attention to your anxiety. You don’t expect your positive thinking to make you have a good day, but you’re not going to worry that it’s going to be a bad one either.
You’re feeling good. You’re having a positive attitude. You’re sending a message into the universe that this is how it's going to be. You're expecting the power of your message to create a good day. You believe that nothing and no one can prevent your decree because you have declared that THIS is the reality you’re walking into.
You’re feeling a little concerned about the day, but you’re trying to have a positive attitude. You have no idea how the day is going to go. You might run into that bully. You might not. You are trusting God to take control of the day, because you recognize that you have no control over what happens (Proverbs 3:5-6).
While it’s true that the actions and attitudes we bring to each day can affect our well-being and the well-being of those around us, we do not have a supernatural power over reality. We can try to practice control over our thoughts and actions, but we aren’t always going to choose the best way. We can hope others will behave a certain way, but they are still responsible for their own actions and may do unexpected things.
Likewise, we have no control over things like genetic illnesses, freak accidents, inclement weather, etc. No matter how much positive thinking, manifesting, or even prayer we send into the world, we cannot personally change or predict all the unknowns of reality. No positive thinking has ever helped a student pass a test if they barely cracked open their textbook. No manifestation ever got someone a job if they never applied for any positions. We cannot change our world by wishing or focusing really, really hard.
Let’s talk about the universe for a second. The universe was created by God (Genesis 1:1). It is massive and beautiful and still expanding. (Isn’t that wild?) But “the universe” doesn’t have your back. It's an amazing creation of God that we get to enjoy. But it's not a sentient thing that listens to us. The universe does not have the will or power to create anyone’s desired outcomes. Here’s the thing though: GOD is listening. Not only does God hear you, He also cares for every hair on your head (Matthew 10:29-30). He knows your whole story, He loves you deeply, and He knows what’s best for you (Romans 8:28; Proverbs 16:9).
“But isn’t prayer is just asking God for something? Can’t I manifest it, so I know I’ll get what I want? What if God has different plans? Plans I don’t like?”
I get it, friend. It can be very scary to put our heart’s requests to God and trust He has our back. I'm not downplaying that. But let me tell you something... As scary as blind faith is? God really does love and care for you. James 1:17 tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Jesus teaches that God is a loving Father who provides for our needs and will help us thrive in life (Luke 11:9-13).
Manifesting is sending your wishes into the universe, yet the universe will never answer back. Positive thinking and words of affirmation are great, yet they do not hold any kind of supernatural power. However, you CAN send your thoughts and desires straight to the Creator of the universe (Colossians 1:16). He will hear you and will always respond in love.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” --Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
REFERENCES: 1. “What does it mean to decree and delare?”, Got Questions Ministries, https://www.gotquestions.org/decree-and-declare.html [Accessed 6-22-2023]. 2. Wilson MA, Liberzon I, Lindsey ML, Lokshina Y, Risbrough VB, Sah R, Wood SK, Williamson JB, Spinale FG. Common pathways and communication between the brain and heart: connecting post-traumatic stress disorder and heart failure. Stress. 2019 Sep;22(5):530-547. doi: 10.1080/10253890.2019.1621283. Epub 2019 Jun 4. PMID: 31161843; PMCID: PMC6690762. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6690762/ - Accessed 6-22-2023] 3. Eagleson C, Hayes S, Mathews A, Perman G, Hirsch CR. The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Behav Res Ther. 2016 Mar;78:13-8. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2015.12.017. Epub 2016 Jan 8. PMID: 26802793; PMCID: PMC4760272. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4760272/ - Accessed 6-22-2023].
We, as humans, do not have the supernatural power to manifest, declare, or wish our way into our desired future. Positive thoughts do not guarantee a positive outcome. We cannot write our own destinies by willing reality to bend to our whims (Proverbs 16:9). However, we can send our thoughts and desires straight to the Creator of the universe (Philippians 4:6-7). He will always hear us and will always respond in love (Luke 11:9-13).
Heidi Joelle spends her days staring at paperwork and making sure it is where it is supposed to be, how it is supposed to be, when it is supposed to be. And then she comes home and makes sure the porky little dog isn't eating a trashcan. Between these two events, she tries to learn and see as much of the world around her as possible.