Some years ago a friend moved to our town and brought with her a phrase I’d not heard before — she talked about “speaking the gospel” to herself. The phrase carried depth of meaning for her.
“When I’m believing un-truth — whether I’m being squeezed into the world’s mold, or I’m reciting thoughts in my own head that turn me away from faith in the true God — I should speak the good news of His amazing love in Christ to myself. And in the ‘speaking the gospel’ to myself, I’d be reminded of truth and I’d act on that truth, not on the lies of the world or the flesh or the devil.” I always thought the whole process might play out in a two-step scenario, like this:
(1) I’m driving down the road, negative thoughts about myself whirring around in my head because of some incident with husband, child or friend — and if my words to myself were actually broadcast out loud, you’d hear:
“Jill, you’re an awful mom/friend/wife. You failed again. You’re really a loser.”
(2) But, because I force myself to quit all the useless self-talk and I instead begin to “speak the gospel to myself,” my spiral downward stops in its ugly tracks. Instead of continuing self-recrimination and escalating despair, you’d now hear me say one of two things to myself. Either:
“No, I’m not stupid. I’m not a failure. I’m fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Ps. 139:13-14)
“OK, so I am a loser, but Jesus died for losers like me. He loves me. And of course I’m a failure — that’s the freeing beauty of the gospel! Jesus chose to die for my past, present and future sins! He knows all my ineptness and unloveliness and yet He still sheds His lavish love upon little me! That’s the whole point!”
Do you hear the “gospel” I’d be speaking to myself? Certainly better than, “Give up, Jill. You’ll never honor the Lord. You’re such a failure!”
But still, I think a step is missing — there’s a better, more complete way.
The missing step — not inward, but upward
This new way, I don’t (1) berate myself, or (2) only recount truth in my head to set my thinking straight. But rather this: All the “self, you’re a stupid loser,” or “well self, of course you are, but that’s OK because Jesus loves and forgives you” is turned from inward self-talk to upward God-talk.
The “I ams” (pick yours: I am ugly, dumb, mean, ruining my children, incapable of doing it right) turn into “You ares” when I talk to God, my Father.
“God, You are who I need. You are so kind to me, Your grace so free, Your mercy so sweet. I’m here again and I’m really messed up. Again. Please help me!”
I ask Him to show me if I sinned against Him. I ask Him to help to set my mind straight, to convict where conviction is needed, to comfort where comfort is needed. I beg Him to do for me what I can’t do for myself!
“Oh God!” I cry out, “Redeem any pain I caused my husband/child/friend! Work in me (and in the person I hurt) so that, even through my failure, in the end, You would shine in each of our hearts as even more beautiful.”
An advocate, not just a mantra
And I remember I have an advocate. I remember I’m not all alone in my head, talking truth to myself, responsible for transforming my own mind (Rom. 12:2). I’m not merely bound horizontally, reciting truth as if the words are some sort of mantra.
No, I have a Father I talk to. He rules the earth from heaven. And He wants me to call upon Him in my trouble (Ps. 86:7). He says:
Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you … Fear not, for I am with you. (Is. 43: 4a, 5a – italics mine)
I have a prophet (who speaks to me by His Spirit through the Word) and a priest (who ever lives to intercede for me) and a King (who chose me to be a part of His kingdom). His name is Jesus. And I can talk to Him. I can pour out my woes and sin and embarrassing limitations before Him.
He always hears. He bids me come closer.
So yes, “speaking the gospel” is important, but I don’t want to forget Who I am speaking of. I want to speak to Him, for His love is better than life, and His ear is always turned toward me.
Today, talk not to yourself, but talk to God.