Faithful Self Talk
I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t know about the concept of “positive self talk”. It’s that thing where you tell yourself positive things about yourself – “I am capable”, “I can do hard things”, etc. I can’t say that I have ever really put this in practice, but I think it is because I don’t have a whole lot of negative self talk going on (how is that for being humble??) except maybe in the area of motherhood.
Last night, when I woke up at 2am and was trying to go back to sleep, I found my thoughts wandering to the whole grieving process and what had been my most successful coping mechanism. It came with its own label – “faithful self talk”. It was such an epiphany, I almost turned the light on and started writing. But sleep quickly ruled that idea out (yay!)
So, “faithful self talk” is just what it sounds like. I have found myself re-framing my experiences through the lens of faith in God. One of the thoughts I had early on was, “you were so terrible at learning this lesson, that God had to take Tom in order to force you to do it.” I found myself countering with thoughts like, “death is part of mortality – Tom’s death isn’t some life lesson – it’s just life. But you can let God make it something good in your life if you will be humble and teachable”. When I was feeling sorry for myself and my changed circumstances, it wouldn’t be long before I would be reminding myself, “think of all the people in this world who have such great trials and challenges – what makes you immune to that? It’s part of why we are here on the earth.” Instead of trying to mask my sorrow with explanations, I tried to just be sad – recognizing that it is so hard to be separated from those you love, that this is part of love. When I felt particularly lonely, I reminded myself to turn to God, to trust that He knew how I was feeling and that He would find ways to offer comfort. I have gotten good at heading off those negative avenues and reminding myself of gospel truths that put my experiences into perspective. Along the way I have discovered that there is real happiness and joy in seeing the world in this way.
I will make one comment – it’s called faithful SELF talk for a reason. I don’t think it would have been helpful at all for someone else to tell me these things. The few times when people offered such commentary, I felt like they were ignoring the very real pain I was experiencing. This is not a tool for making someone feel better. It is a tool for me to turn to God, to use the truths of His gospel to bring me peace and happiness in the midst of sorrow. When people we know and love are suffering, we need to be there to cry with them, to love them without advice, to serve them in ways that lessen the burden a bit.
I think it would be much harder to do “faithful self talk” if I didn’t have a firm understanding and testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have a greater understanding of the parable of the 10 virgins – I didn’t really think about what I was doing all those years that I have attended church and read scripture and prayed. But when my world changed so irrevocably, all those “drops of oil” were there, just waiting to light my way through the darkness of grief. When Satan threw his harmful thoughts at me, I had faithful answers that reminded me of truth. I also spent a few weeks searching the scriptures for verses that helped me make sense of my situation. If you think it might be helpful, you can download my personal Grief Study Guide.
I learned to do this during the intense, emotional experience of losing a spouse, but now that I know how to do it, I have found “faithful self talk” a valuable tool for all the challenges I face. I finally feel like I am learning how to “cast my burden on the Lord” (Psalm 55:22) and find rest (Matt 11:28-30).