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Keep Talking to Yourself

This excellent perspective by Pastor Jim Fikkert of Communion Church was originally posted HERE. I thought his words were worth sharing with you all here as well — Chuck

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you.
| Psalm 42:5–6a

Yesterday, I wrote a post on lament. I was thinking about lament a lot last week as I prepped for the sermon on Daniel 11. Specifically, the way that God describes His people in v.32

the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.

There is nothing especially profound about this statement, until you read it in context. This comment is made as God’s people are experiencing the abomination of desolation; a moment in their history that would cause a great blow to their identity. These people are not standing firm in a light wind, but in the one of the greatest trials in Jewish history.

What is it that allows them to stand? The answer that we get here is: they know their God. Their courage and ability to respond come not from some strength within them, but a power outside of themselves that they have put their trust in. How does one put their trust in God? Your trust in God is developed through the process of getting to know Him. Trust isn’t something that you just have; it is the fruit of sanctification. As Romans 12:1-2 explains, our minds are renewed as we live out lives of worship, seeking the will of God:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This means that knowing God is a life-effort. It is the process of pressing God into every part of your life and allowing that to squeeze out all sorts of unnecessary habits and ideas that have settled there. It is the process of preaching to yourself on a daily basis. Which is the way that Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes it in his book Spiritual Depressions. He says:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

His point is that in every life situation, we can allow our experience to be absolute, or we can declare that God is. We can listen the voice inside of us, a conglomeration of our knowledge and emotions, or we can talk to ourselves, repeating the truth God has revealed to us in His Word. If we don’t preach to ourselves, we will be depressed indeed. It isn’t just that our limited wisdom and temporary perspective are not powerful enough to overcome the difficulties of this life, but there is also an enemy of God who is focused on destroying His good creation. When we do not preach to ourselves, we are giving in to the lies of self and Satan. Lloyd-Jones says it this way:

The essence of this matter is to understand that this self of ours, this other man within us, has got to be handled. Do not listen to him; turn on him; speak to him; condemn him; upbraid him; exhort him; encourage him; remind him of what you know, instead of listening placidly to him and allowing him to drag you down and depress you. For that is what he will always do if you allow him to be in control. The devil takes hold of self and uses it in order to depress us. We must stand up as this man did and say: ‘Why art thou cast down? Why art thou disquieted within me?’ Stop being so! ‘Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance,’ He, ‘who is the health of my countenance and my God.

At the end there, Lloyd-Jones quotes the Psalm of lament at the top of this post. The Psalmist answers his lament with a declaration of hope. We see this all through the Psalms. There is often a line or two, usually at the end, where the Psalmist praises God in the midst of lament. I have always wondered why these verses are there: why do the Psalmists feel the need to say a few good things when they are obviously not feeling it?

They are practicing exactly what Lloyd-Jones directs us to here. They are talking to themselves in the midst of their struggle. They are reminding themselves of what they know is true, when it seems far from them. They are desperately holding on to the truth of God, because it is all they have.

This is a gift of God to us. We will lament. We will face despair. We will sit in moments of uncertainty and fear. We will not sit there without hope. The great message of the gospel is that the things that seem so terrible and so powerful are not the greatest force in the universe. That belongs to the God who will restore all things, including whatever plagues you in the moment. Do not ever forget that. The best way to not forget, is to keep telling yourself.