Only our creator can transform us

There was a time I was nearly powerless against my own emotions. Growing up in a life of hardships beyond my control, I learnt to mask my feelings well—the best and only way I could handle them. Nonetheless, some situations were so terrible that they almost broke me down and I would easily plummet into discouragement, and sometimes self-pity. I would start questioning God why He allows certain things to happen to me. It was amazing how quickly I could drop from fine to really, really not fine.

There is something I came to discover; most of us suffer from a syndrome called “cognitive distortions”—a situation where someone sends negative and false messages to themselves. For instance, I am a loser. I always screw up. I am worthless. Sometimes we don’t even put these messages into words; we just direct hatred toward ourselves. We don’t realize we are mistreating our own soul. And because we send these messages to ourselves so often, our spirit believes they are true.

Now my spirit believes something different. I started sending myself messages grounded in biblical truth. I also started reading the Bible more, taking risks in Christian fellowship, and reaching out to develop supportive friendships. I can see those old messages are false, and when they do come to mind, I recognize them and tell myself what is true: I have purpose. I’m a beloved child of God. My God is much more capable than I am, and He loves me.

This change in self-talk affected more than my mind; it made a difference in my entire life. I’m less prone to depression, I’m more peaceful, and I have more love to offer others. I’ve noticed another change: I don’t worry as much as I used to. When I start to worry, I remind myself that God has transformed me into a new person by changing my mind. If we believe He’s all-powerful, trustworthy, righteous, and good, it makes sense not to waste our lives in worry, but instead to believe and embrace what we know to be true about God and who we are as His children.

I would like to show you how science is catching up to Scripture, which teaches us what is possible through Jesus Christ. It is about a narrative on how our brains are changeable.

My story is one of many that demonstrate the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioural change. According to Cognitive-Behavioural experts, behavioural change “is based on the idea that our feelings and behaviours are caused by our thoughts, not external things like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel or act better even if the situation does not change.” Rather than live at the mercy of outside forces, we have a choice. And the most effective way to modify our habitual behaviours and emotional patterns is to let God change the way we think. Physical science also supports this. Research has transformed our understanding of the brain’s capacity to change through neuroplasticity. It turns out that our brains are mouldable long past childhood; they can and do change throughout our lives.

“Brain plasticity is a physical process,” says Dr. Michael Merzenich, noted neuroscientist and expert in brain plasticity. “Gray matter can actually shrink or thicken; neural connections can be forged and refined or (conversely) weakened and severed. Changes in the physical brain manifest as changes in our abilities. Often, people think of childhood and young adulthood as a time of brain growth … but what recent research has shown is that under the right circumstances, the older brain can grow, too.”

In this piece, I want to tell you that it is possible to change. Even science has proved it. I however want to emphasise that it is only by giving ourselves to God that our lives will completely and eternally be transformed. The scriptures in the book of Romans chapter 12 verse 2 tell us that we should not conform to the patterns of this world but rather be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is a commonly quoted verse, but we often focus only on not being shaped by the world but utterly transformed. We haven’t given enough attention to this transformation happening through the renewal of our minds. It’s not merely a soul or heart change. As the New Living Translation says, it’s a matter of letting God “transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

The author is a graduate student of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, a Communications Specialist, and a preacher of the Word of God.