One way the brain processes upset is through telling itself stories from different angles until it settles on a narrative that fits and helps you move forward. One way you can help yourself heal is to examine the stories you tell yourself. If these looping stories are bringing up more anger, resentment, worry, or sorrow — you might want to search for some better stories. If you cling to stories that flood your body with toxic emotions, they can take you on a one-way trip to despair and bitterness.
Often it is not the actual event or person that keeps on hurting us, but our “thoughts about” the event or person instead. They may have hurt us once, but by rumination, we reinjure ourselves again and again.
Jesus spent much of His ministry undoing false stories and replacing them with truer, better ones. The Sermon on the Mount is a great case in point, where He begins each thought with “You have heard that it was said… but I tell you…” He is, in essence, introducing fresh twists on old familiar ways of looking at life. When we exchange false, painful stories for God’s truer, better ones — over time we also change our emotions, our moods, our personalities, and the outcome of our very lives.
We all know people who have experienced the exact same kind of loss or hurt, but they let it shape them in two very different ways. Same injury, but the crucial difference is one told himself a “grievance story,” while the other chose a “nourishing story” about the identical event.
A fabulous example of this is my friend Shawn. She found the love of her life in midlife. But she and her Ron were married just five years before he died of complications in surgery. She was devastated and grieved his loss profoundly. Within a couple of years, however, she met another widower whose name was also Ron. Happiness returned. They married, and she moved to his country home in Alabama. He provided Shawn with her own version of Eden, a patch of pretty tree-covered land, a garden, a cozy house with a wide front porch, and dogs. Lots of dogs. Two of her adult children soon moved nearby as well, which delighted her heart. Shawn and her children found solace and fresh hope in the happy, healing surroundings that Ron #2 provided.
Then just a few years later, this new Ron was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died within a few weeks.
Two husbands, both named Ron, both gone in the span of two five-year-long marriages. Shawn would be the perfect candidate for nursing her wounds, growing bitter at God, giving up on life and love and hope. One day, however, she wrote me the following email, and I knew my brave friend would find a way to rise above even this sorrow.
As I look back, I see a row of soil just like in my garden. All kinds of seeds are being dropped into the groove of earth, some good, some bad. Right behind them are these big, manly, powerful hands gently covering each seed with rich, warm, healthy soil and patting it down to perfection. That’s what God does. He doesn’t stop the bad stuff from happening, but He covers it up with good things and then most likely waters it with His own tears.
Losing my first husband Ron was a horrible thing. God covered it with Ron’s invitation to join him in Alabama and become his wife. My adult daughter moved nearby, and her life has been changed forever, her marriage on track, her health restored. My lastborn Evan was taken from a scattered life with no future, to live near us and find a career and start a family. Jack-Henry, Evan’s new son, was created from the entire situation. Only a good and loving God could accomplish those things.
Now I feel like I’m observing another “bad seed” being planted; and only God knows what good things He is conjuring to cover it up with.
Shawn could have so easily told herself stories about God’s unfairness and grown sad, ugly, and bitter. Instead she prayed and asked Him for a better, truer story. And indeed, God gave her a nourishing word picture of healing and hope.
Cry Productive Tears
Did you know that tears from sadness contain actual toxins that tears of joy do not? If you feel a lump in your throat, try to let the tears flow freely as soon as you can. This is because after we’ve let those tears flow, those nasty toxins leave our body and a lightness returns to the body and mind — like the cool, clean air following rain. (This is why you can feel limp but also peaceful and relieved after a good hard cry.)
Remind yourself that your tears are precious to God.
The psalmist tells us that God saves our tears in a bottle. The original word for this bottle is actually a “wine-making flask.” God sees every teardrop, saves them like the finest grapes, then transforms your heartbroken tears into something beautiful, rich, and life-giving that will quench another’s thirst and bring comfort and joy to many.
Excerpted with permission from Nourished: A Search For Health, Happiness, And A Full Night’s Sleep by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph, copyright Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph.
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You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. — Psalm 56:8
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. — Matthew 5:4
Are you telling yourself the same negative, painful stories over and over again? Or are you allowing yourself to look at your circumstances and experiences from a more nourishing viewpoint and allowing God to show you how He covers heartbreak with good things and has compassion on you in the middle of your pain? The choice to continue ruminating or to thank God in faith that He is doing a new and good thing is yours. How have you seen God redeem painful circumstances in your life? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
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