{Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of Jennifer’s series, where she shares her personal struggle with negative thinking, rejection (Part 2) and insecurity (Part 3). We hope Jennifer’s willingness to share candidly about her personal struggles will help you and/or someone you love who struggles. God is a God of redemption and He is able.}

She’d been one of my best friends for years. We’d talked for hours at a time; shared our souls. She was the kind of friend who doesn’t come around every day, but things shifted. Distance and change started to separate us.

Ever been there?

In my situation, the shift started slowly, and I didn’t notice immediately. At first, it was little things, like the frequency of phone calls. Whereas she’d once called often, the calls dropped off and she didn’t return my calls. She’d been the type who wanted to meet occasionally for lunch or coffee, but suddenly it seemed like she never had time or the desire to get together, even when it was offers to come help her. In the beginning, I kept my perspective. It had nothing to do with me—she was consumed by life’s enormous demands. I understood that. While it made me sad to be unable to help her, I accepted her busyness as normal. Being a mom of a child with special needs, I totally understood.

But then things shifted more. The few times I saw her out and about, she rushed past me or seemed uninterested in talking.

After several instances, doubt and insecurity crept in. This tiny voice in my head started whispering, “She’s laughing and talking with those other people, but doesn’t want to talk to me. Obviously, the issue is me.” The thoughts went on from there. The few times I spoke with her, I picked up on statements she made about the other people she’d talk to and what they were doing. I’m going to be real—those little statements felt like digs, although in retrospect I don’t believe that was her intent. But in my heart, I no longer heard “my friend is busy.” I heard, “Other people are more interesting than you.”

This is so painful to admit, but those thoughts started showing up in the way I responded to her. The few times I spoke to her, instead of saying something supportive or just listening, the way I normally would, I found myself being short and impatient. Soon her replies mirrored mine. All of a sudden, the relationship I wanted to somehow fix was more broken than ever.

The experience grated on my soul. It felt, on a deep level, like a rejection. I wondered at her motivations and obsessed over my own imperfections. And I hurt.

Soon, that hurt bled into the rest of my world. The part of me searching for an explanation began to doubt. Was I a terrible friend? Did I have anything to offer? Was it because I had shared too much of my internal mess? Did I complain? Had I been pulled in too many directions and failed her? Had I hurt her? That was one of the worst thoughts because the thought of hurting her, hurt me. And on and on.

Over the next few months I became unable to open up to anyone else, fearing I would sound like a complainer or a whiner. I worried that if I shared fears, thoughts, or anything personal, the person on the other end would feel irritated and want to abandon ship, just like I assumed that friend had done.

It wasn’t long before more friendships were affected. I sensed distance on all sides. One day I called my sister who said she didn’t have time to talk. I nearly burst into tears. Instead of hearing what she said—that she was in a hurry—I heard what I’d been dwelling on deep inside my hurt: no one wants to make time for me because I’m not worth it.

I tried to stay open, but each conversation left me wondering if I would drive another person away. Maybe my job was to simply listen and let people talk to me when they needed a sympathetic ear, but to open my own heart was to place myself in a dangerous situation. It was to risk rejection. If I opened my heart to another friend and she ghosted away, it would be further evidence that something was wrong with me, that I wasn’t worth pursuing.

With my brave but guarded face on, I attended holiday parties, yet my once outgoing personality struggled to keep up conversations. I felt like an outsider, observing rather than interacting. In one instance, two of my friends got to talking amongst themselves about a person they had in common and I thought, “They’re acting like I don’t exist. Further proof that I’m boring and don’t belong.”

Not long after, a sweet friend asked if I wanted to go on a girls retreat, and I heard my lonely heart replying that I wasn’t sure if I could make it.

What? “No, no, no,” screamed a small part of me. “You need to go. You need people!” But the other part of me thrashed and kicked. “They will just reject me too! I can’t do it!”

I came home and spent some time in thought and prayer. Is this how God intended us to live? Afraid and isolated? Are we supposed to put up a protective covering and shield ourselves from the world?

Um, no.

I pulled out Lysa TerKeurst’s book Uninvited. The blurb under the title of this beautiful book read, “Living Loved when you feel less than, left out, and lonely.” Well, yep. That pretty much summed up where I was.

Opening the pages of that book started me on a new journey with the Lord where I realized I’d been allowing negative thinking, rejection, and insecurity keep me from not only having deep relationships, but the painful song in my heart was also pulling me away from God.

As I prayed over my situation, a verse came to my mind. I don’t remember if it was something I had read recently or out of the blue, but my spirit stilled within me. Have you ever experienced a moment like that, where something hits you so hard all you can do is blink and remain silent in the face of such truth? This was one of those moments.

I heard these words: “He put a new song in my heart.” With my sketchy memory for details, I pulled out my phone and Googled the phrase. Up came a Psalm, although I had the wording slightly wrong. The NIV version reads,

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

Psalm 40:3

I sat there, silent before the Lord, as his words of healing and truth washed over me. I think my face might have even hit the floor, I was so bowled over by the life-giving truth in those words.

What I so desperately needed was a change in my pattern of thinking.

Y’all, this is difficult to write. It’s one thing to admit we have issues in the quiet comfort of a trusted counselor’s office. But to let all my mess hang out there in front of the world? Not so easy. I don’t like admitting that I’ve acted anything but sweet and calm and super wise. But I can’t be the only one who has allowed negative thinking to shade their version of the world and has acted according to those thoughts. Am I right? Anyone else want to duck under their chair and raise a shaking hand in solidarity?

I’ve written here about the way this got to me in a friendship, but I could write a 700-page book about how negative thinking, rejection, and insecurity have affected my marriage. I think this issue for us women can be huge. The great news is that God in “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV). And again, God promises in Isaiah 41:10 “…I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (NIV).

Since this was the order in which God seemed to deal with me in this issue, today I am mostly talking about reworking our negative thinking patterns. I will get to dealing with rejection and insecurity in another post where I’ll surely have to own up to more of my messes. Let’s hope that my illustrations will come from the past and not something that will occur in the next week…

In those moments where we struggle with our thinking, we must put a new song in our mouths (and in our hearts). And the most powerful thing we can put in our mouths and hearts is God’s own word.

Remember the story of Jesus in the desert, facing temptation? (You can find it in Matthew 4:1-11.) Three times the devil tempted Jesus, and three times Jesus answered, “It is written,” and then quoted the word of God. Among other lessons, I believe this is an example of how to deal with temptation. When we are up against a wall—whether it be a real brick and mortar wall or one in our minds built with hundreds of negative thoughts, quoting God’s word will give us strength.

In order to not appear mentally unbalanced when I’m in public, I do my best to keep my internal monologue silent. (Although sometimes I fail, which is always awkward.) But a wise friend shared with me recently that there is something intensely powerful about speaking God’s word out loud. I have read that same sentiment in numerous Beth Moore studies and books, including SO LONG, INSECURITY. If we are able to hear, ours is the voice that has been resounding in our heads since we can first remember and let’s be honest…it’s often the voice we like to hear, right?

So my friend says to use this as a weapon to our fullest advantage and speak God’s word out loud. Again, in Ephesians 6:17, God’s word is referred to as the Sword of the Spirit, a weapon to use in the face of trials and temptations.

So in that moment, I started praying for God to put a new song in my heart. When I heard one of those negative thoughts thrashing around under the covers of my mind, I would focus on God’s word. When I am at my weakest and the negative thoughts seem to be a their loudest, my redirecting thoughts are often simple. “Nope. I will put a new song in my mouth, one of praise to God.”

I find that God is faithful to give me just the right verse if I ask and seek him in his Word. (In addition to meditating on Bible verses, I also love listening to Christian music. I’m amazed at how many times something in a song will come to my mind.) Next time we will discuss overcoming rejection and the importance of seeking God’s perspective, but in the meantime, here are some verses* to help rewrite the songs in our hearts:

  • “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalms 9:10
  • “You are my strength and my shield.” Psalm 28:7
  • “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:5b
  • “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3
  • “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” Lamentations 3:25
  • “Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:8
  • “…you have been given fullness in Christ…” Colossians 2:10a
  • “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

*Verses are in NIV unless noted.