Between bumping our clocks ahead an hour and forgetting to order a decaf coffee on our family date night to Starbucks, I found myself wide awake at midnight. I did my usual scroll through Instagram and Facebook, did some incredibly random shopping on Amazon (with the hope that my order of Shrinky Dinks would arrive miraculously before we found ourselves under 8 – 24 inches of snow), and that’s when it started.
The doubts. The nagging voices inside my head reminding me about all the mistakes I’d made – not just over the weekend, but replaying scenes from the last few years. Horrible work meetings, arguments with friends, regrets, words I wish I’d been brave enough to say and words I wish I’d been brave enough to hold in – they all came back.
If I’m honest, it’s always been so much easier for me to offer words of hope and encouragement to other people than to speak them to myself. I’m more likely to believe the lies, feed the doubts, and grieve the regrets than I am to have an internal dialogue that is kind and uplifting. In the morning light, I can see it all for what it is – the sneak attacks of the enemy, using fear, anger, and hurt to keep me from truly going after the work God has placed before me. When I stay stuck in the past I can’t do good work in the present that will impact God’s kingdom in the future.
I can’t imagine any of us would actually say the things we think about ourselves to anyone else (I would be mortified) and I know for a fact that God doesn’t say those things about me, either. But I don’t think I’ve ever given myself permission to be encouraging to…ME. It feels selfish and weird and terribly NOT humble to look at what God is doing in my life and say things like, “Of course you can do it! God chose you!” or “I believe in you – this is exactly what you were created to do, for exactly this season!” and “With God on your side you can absolutely stay firm in that decision.”
So much easier to say it all to someone else, isn’t it?
But I’m starting to learn that encouragement starts with our inner dialogue. Scripture says it this way: “You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” Luke 6:45 (MSG). Other versions talk about it as “the overflow of the heart.” In order to be an effective encourager in the life of someone else, the words we say out loud need to come from an overflow of the words we speak to ourselves. We need to be filled with Truth, what God really and truly says about us in the Bible, and we need to discern God’s conviction from the enemy’s critique. We don’t have time for critics when it comes to holy hustle – but we always have room to improve for our work-in-progress selves to bring more glory to God.
Pay attention to the words you speak to yourself this week. Be intentional about filling your heart and your own mind with the kind of words that speak truth about who you are and what you’ve been called to do. Cast out the critics and the doubters, the regrets and the comparisons. When my heart and mind are full of that garbage the only thing I accomplish is losing sleep and wasting time. Fill up with the good stuff, encourage your own heart, believe what God says about you is true, and acknowledge that without Him we’ll never be enough – but He has no intention of calling us here and leaving us stranded. In the overflow of a heart full of praise for God and encouragement for your soul, work confidently right where He has called you.
Encouragement for others starts with the words you speak to yourself. Make them good ones today.