I want to share a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) hack that will supercharge your Christian faith. NLP is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s. It has both its detractors and supporters, but its basic supposition is that ‘neuro-linguistics' create a map of reality. That map determines how we behave and gives those behaviors meaning. In other words, the way we speak about something impacts what that thing is, how we feel about it, and thus our understanding of the world around us.
No matter where you stand on NLP, there is no doubt that “self-talk” matters (Proverbs 15:4). There is one phrase we often mutter to ourselves. Ironically, this phrase is uttered by both Christians and Non-Christians. It is most often heard when an unexpected event has occurred and the impact of that event is realized to be positive. However I would suggest that, when uttered in this context, this phrase reinforces an idea that is dangerous to your faith.
The mystery phrase I am speaking of is “Thank God”. We “Thank God” when that car misses us or we “Thank God” when we get unexpected good news. This seems like a perfectly biblical response to these situations. After all, as Christians who else should we thank. But, the message we are sending to our brain is: “I expected this to go poorly” and “I am thankful that God magically showed up”. Yet, these two thoughts, embodied in the phrase “Thank God”, undermines the truth of the Bible: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
There is a powerful NLP phrase we can use instead of “Thank God” and I will get to that in a minute. But first, let’s unpack the simple truth contained in Romans 8:28. The verse states that “we know”. Knowing means we have an awareness of a fact. Most of us “know” what gravity is and its impact on our lives. Rarely do you say “Thank Gravity” when you don’t fly off the earth into the void of space. This is because, none of us could ever imagine this eventuality. When we “Thank God” we are acknowledging something that could have gone poorly went well for us. But if we “know” that God works all things for good. Then we should be no more surprised when things work out than when we find our feet stuck to the ground.
So what are we to utter? What can we say that will reinforce the truth of Romans 8:28? What can we say that will invite others to consider our Christian journey and the power of our uncommon faith? If we want to reprogram our brains to believe in a real and present God and reaffirm that he is always working for our good, we should adopt the phrase “But of course”. But of course that car missed you! But of course the test results came back negative (which is positive). But of course you got a raise. But of course your faith and devotion to Christ is rewarded.
When you say “But of course” you are acknowledging that this good thing was predestined. The positive outcome was as easy to predict as the effects of gravity. You are affirming your belief in a real God, that he is always working for your good, and this positive outcome is more evidence of that truth. It lets your light shine and invites others to ask about the source of your uncommon confidence. In a way the phrase “Thank God” never could, the confidence embodied in “But of course” shines a blazing spotlight on your faith and the source of your faith.
But, life is not all sunshine and roses. Yes there are events that appear to be bad. Should we then say “But of course”? The simple answer is no. You don’t want to leverage this phrase until the “good”, God is working for you, has revealed itself. Don’t be disingenuous. In these times it is “ok” to question God. Questions allow us to better know someone and when you question God, without doubt, you are pleasing the Lord. In these moments, pray for wisdom (James 1). When the answers comes, you can give thanks to the Lord and confirm your faith in Him by uttering the simple phrase “But of course”.