by James Rudy Gray
Every person engages in what has been called self-talk. These are the words, thoughts, and images with which we tell ourselves about everything. What we tell ourselves determines how we think, feel, and act to a large degree.
Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Real freedom is not simply doing whatever we please but having the power and will to do what is right. But, how do we know what is right? God's Word is our standard. D. L. Moody once suggested that arguing about how crooked a stick was would accomplish nothing. However, if we lay it beside something we know is straight, then we can determine how crooked it is.
We tell ourselves many different things. Are they true? Sometimes Christians can develop toxic-type beliefs that do not square with Scripture. Instead of telling ourselves the truth, we tell ourselves something else. These unbiblical thoughts are like that crooked stick. How crooked is it? We will know, when we allow Scripture to be our guide.
What do you tell yourself? A good exercise would be to consciously take notes on your thoughts, especially the negative or unscriptural thoughts you have. Examine and even write down the messages you send yourself. Then take those thoughts captive by choosing to believe and obey God's Word. For example, you may feel unworthy and tell yourself that you cannot do a certain job or that you don't deserve good things in your life. However, the great doctrine of justification (our legal position or standing before God) declares that we are righteous. We are loved, accepted, and forgiven. We can choose to believe that truth and allow it to influence our feelings or we can allow our toxic thoughts and misbeliefs to enslave us to defeat and emotional distress.
A common misbelief many people have is that they must be in control of everything. The Bible says God is sovereign. He is in control of everything. If God is in control, we are not. We can be faithful, but we cannot be sovereign. To accept His control is to be able to relax. We could believe, as many people do, that everyone we meet should like us. The truth is they won't. Not everyone liked Jesus. If we carefully read Jesus' prayer in John 17, we can get some insight into what we might call our Lord's self-talk. What comforted Jesus was not His circumstances but His Father's truth.
Happiness cannot be found by striving to find it. It is experienced as a by-product of right or good happenings. Joy, however, comes from God, feels as good or better than happiness, and is based on God's Spirit, not what happens to us. You can feel lonely and yet not grow discouraged or disheartened. God's child is never alone. Jesus said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Heb. 13:5).
Examine how you talk to yourself. Take those beliefs, words, and ideas that bind and bother you and challenge them with God's Truth. Choose to believe and obey the truth. As you keep doing this, you will find more and more freedom for living and less emotional distress in life.