I had blown it again. The very thing I didn’t want to do, I had just done. I’d promised myself I wasn’t going to sink into the self-deprecating thinking, the kind that sent me spiraling down into the abyss where all my prior failures hung out. Would I ever get it right?
I get to talk to a lot of women, and I’ve found that I’m not alone in this negative pattern. Most of you can instantly name a mountain or desert place you’ve trudged around and around because you can’t seem to make any progress. It doesn’t really matter what your particular issue is. I can assure you that you are not alone.
Jesus Tells a Story
In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says,
When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. (verses 43–45)
Now, I’m certainly not proclaiming that any of us are possessed by an evil spirit when we repeat the same mistakes over and over again. It is a common problem that even the Apostle Paul wrestled with: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do (Romans 7:15). Instead, I’m looking at the bigger principle that Jesus was trying to teach.
Let’s just imagine the demon in Jesus’s story is whatever bad habit or negative behavior you are trying to break. You repent of it, promise to yourself or to others that you are going to do everything within your power to never do that thing again. Your house is swept clean and in order.
In this short story, Jesus conveys to us that a clean house is not good enough. The former occupant (the bad habit) must be replaced with a new occupant (a new good habit), or you are in danger of the former occupant (that old bad habit) coming back to resume residency.
Finding the Right Occupant for Your Mind
So how do you put a new habit or behavior into place? Modern psychologists might call what I’m about to suggest self-talk. I’m not talking about new age chants or meditative mantras. I’m encouraging you to take the time to research and write down truth. Find verses that speak directly to the heart of the problem you face, and then speak God’s wisdom over yourself on a daily basis.
What could this look like? Perhaps you are struggling to believe you are worthy of God’s love, good friends and quality relationships. You might choose to speak (yes, out loud) this over yourself:
I am a wild olive shoot, grafted in among the others and now sharing in the nourishing sap from God, the olive root (Romans 11:17). The Lord has chosen me to be a part of His people, His treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6). I am the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8) . He watches over me (Psalm 121:5), has plans to prosper me (Jeremiah 29:11) and will give me an abundant life (John 10:10). And absolutely nothing can separate me from my God and His love for me (Romans 8:38-39).
What do you think? If you said that out loud to yourself every day for a month, do you think it would change your perspective, renewing your mind with truth?
The Truth is …
Whether you believe that this kind of self-talk will work will determine if you take on the challenge I’ve laid before you or not. But consider this: the truth is that you are already talking to yourself every day and acting upon those words you are telling yourself.
Don’t believe me? Do a simple search online. Researchers are finding that people who suffer from clinical depression tend to frequently engage in destructive self-talk. In other words, they tear themselves down or question why they couldn’t do something better.
A small study completed by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill found that senior executive managers who used positive or constructive self-talk measured higher in leadership, creativity/originality, and lower in their perceptions of job strain.
Self-talk matters. Renew your mind with positive truth from God’s Word.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.