The Story I Tell Myself

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When I am afraid, I will trust in You.

Psalm 56:3

… “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”

This is from the book Wild, written by Cheryl Strayed. If you didn’t see the movie or read the book, it is the story of a woman who embarks on a journey of healing by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. I haven’t gotten to the end of the book, I hope it ends well, but this passage stood out to me.

Fear – we have all felt it at some time or another and, if truth be told, fear has doomed many a journey. Perhaps that is why we are encouraged in the Bible over 365 times to fear not. Our journey matters to God. If Cheryl is right and fear is born of a story we tell ourselves, then it behooves us to examine the story. What are the lies we have bought in to? What are the tapes that play through our mind that lead us to fear?

Recently, my life took several turns I did not anticipate. Turns that were not of my choosing or in my control. My response, among other things, was fear. Fear of the future, what it would like, how would I manage in the “new normal”? Oh, I know God will take care of me, I know He holds the future, but still the tapes played on in my head.

After many sleepless nights, I developed a new strategy; I told myself a different story. I played different tapes. I purposefully focused my thoughts on some aspect of God’s character, or repeated a Bible verse over and over again, or just told God of my fears and concerns. I wish I could say it was easy; it was not. The story I tell myself had developed a power of its own but I persisted. Nothing changed overnight, but as the nights became weeks, I found that I could switch channels easily and drift off to sleep knowing that my fears were groundless in the light of God’s unfailing love and character.

Nothing in my present circumstances has changed. My days are still uncertain but my nights are restful. My journey hasn’t changed anymore than Cheryl’s changed simply by overcoming fear, but I know now that it isn’t doomed.

What are the stories you tell yourself? Do they help you on your journey or do they cripple you?

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