Tell Yourself a Different Story

Taken from And Yet, Undaunted: Embraced by the Goodness of God in the Chaos of Life by Paula Rinehart and Connally Gilliam.

C. S. Lewis said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures”—but he “shouts in our pain.” God’s megaphone rouses us out of our deafness.[1] I found that to be so. A bit of discomfort can remind you to take the cotton out of your ears. 

It took a while. Slowly, in the listening, I discovered that the Spirit of God has a scrub brush powerful enough to scrape off the most damning inscriptions in the well of your soul. The blood of Jesus reaches that far. God writes new words of love and acceptance that take shape slowly, always catching you by surprise—a love that seems so impossible, it must be true. 

I think in all of Scripture, Isaiah says this in its clearest form. This is what God whispers in your heart, but truly, he is shouting it from the highest mountain, if only we can hear:

But now, thus says the Lord,

he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.”[2]

If you belong to someone else, your worth, your significance, your sense of competence no longer depends on you. As I waited with my empty tin cup by the side of the road, I could finally hear that truth: Maybe, Paula, your life is not about having what it takes—all that “right stuff” business. Maybe, just maybe, belonging to Jesus is so packed with “enough-ness” that it will carry you everywhere you need to go. 

It continues carrying me where I need to go.

Exchanging a lie you believe for the truth God wants you to embrace can sound like a rather solitary experience. And indeed, it does begin between you and God. 

But as I found quickly, for truth to get solid inside you, you must risk sharing it with others. Real, flesh-and-blood people who are invited in new ways to know the woman you are—this woman that Jesus knows and still loves. People whose support and encouragement you no longer dismiss but start to count. When you’re living in the truth, you learn to let a few more people past the parlor of your life. 

One of the concrete things I stumbled on—really, I think God just dropped this on me—was the idea of digging out photos of friends whose voices had been positive and supporting. My own little chorus of cheerleaders—and I think we all have those, if we look. Those women have sat on my bedside table for years now, in ridiculously expensive frames, a collective female reminder that the God of the universe has a thousand ways to wrap me in his goodness and love. And he does the same for you.

This is the sort of redemptive train we board over and over throughout our lives, as God takes us further into what can be. The lie we can finally put into words. What we believed about God and ourselves and others—and the dark places those choices take us. But the truth—oh, the truth spells our freedom, though it might make us quite miserable when we first try it on for size.

On this path, the actual story inside us changes. Or, as Curt Thompson said in his wonderful book The Soul of Shame, you begin to tell yourself a different story. [3]

That is almost the definition of deep, redemptive change: You start telling yourself a different story. 

I wish I could say I lived all my moments in the freedom of belonging to the God who loves me. I wish my tongue never turned sharp and sassy. But this is the evidence of ongoing redemption: I’m able to find home sooner than I used to. I work harder at forgiveness—receiving it myself and offering it others—because unforgiveness keeps the lie stuck to the walls of my soul. And it’s the lie that kills.

Don’t miss the power of the gospel let loose in your life. That’s the thing to ask God—What is the truth you want me to receive and carry forward? That’s what you build a life on. Truth taken into the deep places of your heart rearranges the pieces of the way you do life. What you see and experience is redemption—a cool, clear taste of what God has always wanted to bring to life in you. 

It’s a tragedy to stand knee-deep in water and yet be dying of thirst. Drink fresh water from the river of life that Christ claims flows through you by his spirit. [4] There’s so much of God’s goodness to be had. Even in the here and now of a broken, bleeding world. 

As Moses beautifully wrote in Deuteronomy, this ongoing process of what can be is a story that repeats over and over in our lives. May we have eyes to see:

In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.”[5]

What a thought, really. God longs to bring you through the wilderness and into a place of goodness so rich you would be tempted to think you got there by your own little genius. 

Except that you know better.

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 91. [2] Isaiah 43:1. Emphasis added. [3] Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe about Ourselves (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015), 112. [4] John 7:37-39. [5] Deuteronomy 8:16-17, nasb. Emphasis added.


Paula Rinehart has been speaking and writing for women for more than 25 years. Her books include the best-selling Strong Women, Soft Hearts. Paula and her husband are the parents of two children and four grandchildren. They make their home in Raleigh, NC.

Connally Gilliam serves with the US Navigators. As the author of Revelations of a Single Woman: Loving the Life I Didn't Expect, she is a frequent speaker on sexuality, gender, race, and the unremitting goodness of God found in Jesus Christ. Connally has seven nieces and nephews and is a Godmother to five. She lives in Charlottesville, VA.