Updated: May 13
God won't give you anything more than what you can handle.
God is allowing this in your life to grow you and teach you.
God is love.
Love the sinner but not the sin.
If God wants this for me, then He will make it happen.
God answers prayers.
God will protect you.
God wants an intimate relationship with you.
Language is very powerful. It has been used to communicate, instruct, teach, tell stories, and connect with each other. It can also be used to control.
After spending 40+ years in the Christian Evangelical faith system, I learned a language. It's insider language. You learn it, you use it and you live by it. It wasn't always from the book we believed in, but culture too. This language formed me. It taught me who I should be and how I should exist in my world. Now that I stand outside of the belief system and its culture, I hear its language very clearly. It's so loaded.
The phrases I listed above are typical Christianize. I heard them day in and day out. They were used to comfort, disciple, and equip us. But really they just aren't helpful. In fact, I would go as far as saying that they damaged us. These aren't even things that are true or can be held to a standard of truth. They also compel us to believe things about other humans that move us further from love.
After years of healing from narcissistic abuse and gaslighting, I came to see these types of phrases as ways we gaslight ourselves to hold up a set of beliefs that couldn't hold themselves up. Let me show you what I mean.
God won't give you anything more than what you can handle. This was a mantra I heard over and over again. I think it was used for two reasons. First, it allowed us to acknowledge someone's hardship without having to actually help them. And if we questioned it, we were offered a follow-up "pray for faith" or "have more faith". We were still left without our hardship addressed. The second reason is that it protected God from not being god. If we believed God loved us, then he wouldn't hurt us or pile mounds of despair on us. So in order to save God's reputation of being a good god, then the underlying tone of this statement is that we actually can handle this very hard thing....so go handle it.
Why would I consider this gaslighting? Consider that a gaslighter's whole purpose is to reorient your reality so that you will operate in their reality rather than the actual truth. This ultimately gives the gaslighter the ability to create the reality they want. If we have a belief that is so important that we orient our entire life around it, then questioning that belief becomes difficult. It's even more difficult if questioning that belief makes the whole system fall apart. Who are we, then, without this "thing" we have built our entire identity, lifestyle, morality, culture, and worldview around? So might it be easier to gaslight ourselves (create the reality we want) than to disrupt the entirety of our existence?
I've gone through many phrases over the last 5 years as I unravel myself from a complex system of beliefs. I've learned that I have a physical reaction in my body now when I hear these phrases. I think I can feel and hear the threads of my previous theology unraveling at that moment. This culture, this language, ran so deep in my existence that my body feels it. Why? I think it's because language guides us to our view of ourselves and the world. We see it in advertising, marketing, politics...everywhere. We figure out who we are based on the language we and others use with us. We form our innermost being around language. And then we live accordingly. We cope, we celebrate, we play, we connect, we have sex, and we do all the things in our bodies that we have decided in our minds. If I believe that God will not give me something that I can't handle, then I lead my body into a level of survival and coping that is required to endure the hardship. And if I believe that God thinks I can handle this, then I have to handle it at any cost to myself. It's in my body. The language begins in my mind but it is lived in my body.
We are in a political war right now around language. Everything from the pronouns we use to what "life" means. It's so powerful. My goal now isn't to trade my language out for another that suits me better. My goal is, instead, to know who I am without the language so that when I reenter the conversation, I am using language that is true. I am committed to no longer gaslighting myself. If my beliefs can't hold themselves up without me altering the reality, then I stop taking on the responsibility of making sure they stay held up. Do you get that? Do you understand that I am saying that truth will hold itself up? I do not need to defend it. It just is.
This frees me to be able to ask any question I need to. It offers me curiosity without the risk of losing my identity in the process. You see, my identity is not my belief system. My beliefs come as a result of who I am. This allows me to change and grow and evolve as much as I need to while still being me.
You see...after 40+years of being my belief system, I finally found the truth. That truth is me.
Jessicah is an exvangelical who loves to liberate women from patriarchal and oppressive programming. She is a former "pastor's wife" to whom she is still married. She is a feminist who climbed out of a very small box of ideology about her role and position in the world. She has faced mortality and found what it means to actually live. She believes we each have a story to live and choosing to live it on our terms is liberation.
If you'd like to work with Jessicah, beware! You will evolve. You will change. You will break down beliefs about yourself that just aren't true. And you will like who you are! Click here to find out more about working with her.