I use and reuse this gem of a story from LeAnne Payne about what happens when we peel back the layers of our negative self-talk and allow the light of Scriptural truth in. The story comes from Restoring the Christian Soul, pages 59-61. If you want to hear my own personal story of healing through Scripture, click here.
“The following example of listening prayer illustrates the way God so powerfully uses the Scriptures we’ve stored away in our hearts. We sometimes receive messages from Him that are not Scripture, per se, but they are always scriptural. That is, they are never in disagreement with the Scriptures, but are in full harmony with them and are always to be judged by them.
This story concerns Sr. Penelope, an attractive, saucy nun who had always been at odds with herself. There were, she said, certain sins in her life she had been unable to overcome. She wanted so very much to love God, to do His will (“I have dedicated my entire life to God; I would hold nothing back”), yet she felt rebellious and unlovable. She never felt close to the God she served. She and the other nuns met regularly for prayer in the convent. For twenty years her corporate prayers with the sisters, as well as her private prayers, were filled with negative thoughts about herself and her relationship to the God to whom she had chosen to give all.
She had gone through different kinds of “therapy” for her “problems” when I first met with her for prayer. I was definitely a last resort. She would have continued serving God the rest of her life the best she knew how, though thinking herself alienated from Him and full of hatred for herself.
I prayed with her, helping her to receive forgiveness, and asked her to consciously and deliberately practice the Presence of Christ. This she agreed to do. I then asked her to pay attention to and write out in a new prayer journal her negative thoughts and thought patterns, and then listen to the word God was speaking to her –those words from Him that would replace the negative, diseased patterns of thought. I asked her to discern where the diseased words were coming from –the world, the flesh, or the devil. This she agreed to do. I asked her to confess the pride that had kept her back from self-acceptance, and she did that. I wasn’t long before I had a letter from her:
It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes to write down ten negative thoughts to work on. I’m sure I can find more, but that’s enough for the moment! …The first black thought to be dissolved was:
God will never speak to me.
Obviously, if that couldn’t be erased, I’d have a lot of trouble doing anything else! The “answer” was not a direct refutation of the complaint, but rather it was sort of drowned out by that verse in Psalm 85, “I will listen to what the Lord is saying, for He is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to Him.” The next was:
God can’t do anything with me; I’m too selfish.
It melted before, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become sons of God,” and “He will make your righteousness as clear as light and your just dealing as the noonday.”
But yesterday cut and healed at heart level. I’ll never be able to surrender to God met Ezekiel 36:16-36, but especially verses 25-27. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
The surrender issue is of long, long standing. I have felt as though my hands were hopelessly clamped onto my life, control, a driver’s wheel …something…that had to be let go, but I couldn’t pry my grip loose, and confessors who demanded a verbal declaration of surrender made me feel only more guilty and frustrated and hypocritical because I knew the words couldn’t effect the reality. And now– it doesn’t matter anymore! It is God’s responsibility. I can trust Him to give me the heart and spirit of surrender when it pleases Him…
As soon as she got through the ten negative thoughts about herself, she wrote again, ecstatically:
Joy continues to well up in me. The negative thoughts just haven’t any hooks to hang on any more, and I am becoming less Leah and more Rachel…
Then, in a few more days, I received this remarkable word from her:
What you gave me was marriage counseling–you got me ready for a wedding!
I then got word from another nun in the convent. The message was this: ‘Sr. P. is so joyous the convent is fairly rocking!'”
And what about you friend? What lies have been overcome or still need to be challenged by Scripture. Bring them out in the Light and let Jesus do the heavy lifting. My favorite verse for this work? Jeremiah 23:29. Powerful words to claim.
“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”
And yes, I can testify. It is so true.