Devotional,  Ministry

Affirmations….Self Help or Jesus Help?

So, juicy little secret about me. I love yoga.  Not the intense kind of yoga that breaks me out in a violent sweat, but relaxing yoga.  More like sophisticated stretching.  It’s one of my favorite parts in my morning routine.  Most days I’m up shortly after 5 AM, when I enjoy the quietness of the morning.  I fix some coffee, read my Bible, then grab my yoga mat.  I love sipping on my coffee and listening to the soothing voice of the chick on YouTube walking me through a nice morning stretch.

One YouTuber I follow just started a 30 day morning yoga challenge.  It’s right up my alley….a new ten minute video every morning!  She likes to end each session by placing her hands over her heart, bowing, and uttering one long ‘Oooommmmmm’.  She takes it super seriously, which makes me laugh.  I salute the end by sipping my coffee.  It feels equally as relaxing!

During these videos, she assigns each day an affirmation.  She comes back to it repeatedly, reminding the viewer to set their intention for the day, even if it’s just one word.

This is actually a relatively popular practice today.  Psychology Today described affirmations as ‘statements that are designed to create self-change in the individual using them.  They can serve as inspiration, as well as simple reminders.  They also can serve to focus attention on goals…which has the potential to promote positive and sustained self-change.’

Practically, an affirmation is a statement that you know to be true or want to be true, so you repeat it to yourself until you believe it.  In my visits with a therapist, we talked about affirmations quite a bit.  I remember sitting in her office, listening to her tell me about things I needed to tell myself to build self-esteem and confidence.  And I remember thinking that part of this idea seemed to make a lot of sense, but part of it was off.

Then it hit me.  The concept of repeating affirmations was a great idea.  I’ve talked and written about this very idea before.  As Christians, sometimes we have to tell ourselves things that the Bible says are true even when we don’t feel it.  The more we tell ourselves these truths, the more we act on them, and the more they become deeply rooted truths in our souls.

The part that was off was the content of the affirmations that our culture promotes. If you go back to the Psychology Today article, you’ll see that it’s all based on self change, self motivation, and self inspiration. Do you see the problem here? Self. I’ve tried to change, motivate, and inspire myself for a long time, and I can tell you that it doesn’t work. The only person that can inspire true life change and motivate us to be better individuals is Jesus Christ and His transforming work in our lives.

The problem is that affirmations that are all about us and for us will ultimately fail us. We are not capable of the change that our souls long for so desperately. And that’s actually a comforting place to be…to know that it’s not all up to me. I have the creator of the universe on my side, helping change me from the inside out. What a weight off my shoulders!

So what do we do with affirmations?  If you use them, should you throw them out the window?  Not at all!  Like I said, the concept of telling ourselves something until we believe it is a great one.  Some of my favorite verses are Lamentations 3:22-24:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’.”

The book of Lamentations is a sad book.  The author is defeated, downcast, discouraged.  He feels as if God has abandoned him and all hope is gone. But in the middle of his grief he proclaims those words,  telling his hurt soul something that it needed to hear.  The verse literally says ‘I say to myself’.  See? Affirmations in Scripture!

This type of self talk is found throughout Scripture.  Here are a few more examples:

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.  (Psalm 62:5)

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed with in me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5)

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.  (Psalm 103:1-2)

So I suggest that we redeems affirmations.  Let’s take the positive ideas that the world says we need to generate from within ourselves and find the right source instead.  Here is an example using some of the affirmations that my favorite yoga chick used this week.

“I am in love with life.”

Let’s just clarify that further…..”Jesus came that I may live life to the fullest.”.

“I easily handle whatever comes my way.”

So this one. I’m not so sure it’s a truth I want to tell myself. My life experience has taught me quite the opposite. I’ve had a lot of things thrown my way that I haven’t handled. Things I’ve just curled up in the fetal position and hid from. Let’s adjust this one slightly for times when life feels heavy and not so easy…

“I can do all things through Christ who give me strength.”

Some of the very best affirmations we can find are just like this last one- straight out of Scripture.  I believe that the Bible is truth all the way through- no errors or mistakes.  So I can’t think of a better source of affirmations than committing to memory what the Bible has to say to us.  When Scripture is the root of what we tell ourselves, it will always point us back to the true source of change and motivation.

So jump in your Bible and discover the life changing truth that God offers you today….and tell yourself that truth over and over until it’s deeply imbedded in your soul. This, my friend, will produce a change that will last.

Your thoughts?