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Thanks for all of your prayers for my writing on my new book on Destructive Marriages. I wish it was going faster, but it’s coming…..slowly…..but at least it’s coming.
Question: Although I’m no longer in a destructive relationship with my abusive husband, I still hear his words in my head. How do I stop those negative voices from keeping me locked in fear and with feelings of worthlessness?
Answer: We all struggle with different voices in our head. Not audible voices I hope, but the Bible teaches that people’s words are powerful. From infancy, we begin to absorb and internalize the words that have been spoken about us and to us, whether they are lies or truth. In addition, the Bible tells us that we battle the world, the flesh and the devil, and all of these forces (voices) are vying for our attention.
So how do we decide which voices we are going to pay attention to and which ones we need to ignore? I’ve been reading through the book of Mark for the past few weeks and I’ve been struck by how many hurtful things were said about Jesus and to Jesus. Yet, he wasn’t destroyed by them, nor did he allow what other’s said or thought to control him.
At one time, his own family said, “He’s out of his mind.” The religious leaders said, “He’s possessed by Satan” (see Mark 3). And people shouted abuse, mocked and ridiculed Jesus when he was hanging from the cross (see Mark 15). I’m sure these hurtful words were painful to Jesus, yet he did not allow them to define him or change him. He knew who he was because there was another voice he was listening to that was more powerful than all the rest. He said of himself, “I always listen to what the Father tells me.”
Who we are, in other words our identity or self-concept, is formed in relationships. When we have been in abusive or destructive relationships, it does impact our view of ourselves unless we are in a relationship with another person who counters those destructive comments. For example, when a child grows up in a healthy home where her parents affirm her and encourage her, hurtful comments by classmates may sting, but they do not destroy. In the same way, when we are listening to God and believe what he says about who he is in our lives and who we are to him, other people’s words are not nearly as potent.
If you read through the scriptures, especially the Old Testament, you will often be privy to hear a dialogue between God and someone of the nation of Israel. For example, in Deuteronomy, God told the Israelites in the midst of their fear, “You may say to yourselves, ‘these nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?’ But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt…” (Deuteronomy 7:17).
In another passage, the Israelites doubted God’s love and care for them. They said, “The Lord has deserted us, the Lord has forgotten us.” Have you ever felt that way? This is how God answered Israel’s internal self-talk:
“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you. See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:14-16 NLT
God knows that fear is a core emotion because we struggle with unbelief. Even when we want to believe, we have doubts. We aren’t sure he’s really there or that he deeply loves us personally. So what are we to do?
I’ve been enjoying my new role as a grandma. When the baby gets upset or is crying and I don’t know what’s wrong, I whisper softly into her ear soothing, comforting words. I know she doesn’t understand language yet, but somehow she intuitively understands love, comfort, security, and safety. She settles down because she trusts that I am taking care of her and I am with her. I think in the same way, God tells us repeatedly throughout the scriptures, “Do not be afraid,” or “be anxious for nothing,” He’s not saying these words as a command to obey, but as a loving father whispering into our ear to remind us that he is present and he cares about what we are going through.
Jesus tells us, “My sheep know my voice” (John 10:4). Much of the Christian journey is learning to believe God. When his followers asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires,” Jesus simply responded, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Believing God takes work sometimes. So this week’s question is this: When your thoughts and feelings are contrary to what God says, who wins?