“Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”
As we watched my mother-in-law struggle with old age, it was painful to see her fight for her significance. All her life she had been strong, talented and successful: a professional cook and seamstress, an avid and productive gardener, a wonderful housekeeper and hostess. These abilities and the resulting achievements made her feel significant and satisfied.
But as they were gone, she had only an inner, undefined emptiness, which she didn’t know how to deal with. She rejects help even though she needs it. She seeks relief by forcing herself to do things that cause her unnecessary physical pain. She is unhappy, sad and angry.
Although she had accepted Christ in her youth, it seems there was no one to teach her how God has given us in Christ all the significance we could ever want: a love and acceptance that nothing on earth can alter, a position of status as a child of God and an invitation to join God in His great work, primarily through prayer.
Recently I heard of one practice that can prevent all of us from falling into this trap of self-pity and living in such frustration: we should stop just listening to ourselves and instead start talking to ourselves. The difference is huge.
Only listening to ourselves is a trap: “What a terrible day with all this rain” “No one loves me” “Nothing ever goes right” “I can never get ahead” “No luck for me today!”
It is good to recognize these thoughts, but then evaluate them according to God’s Word. After that we can speak truth to ourselves, which is the way out of this swamp of sadness.
For example, we should say such things as, “Well, I had hoped for a sunny day, but praise God He knows that we need this rain!” “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” “Praise you that you bring to me what I need, Lord, both what is pleasant and what is not!” “Thank you for the lack of progress, as this reminds me that my times are in your hands.” “Thank you that you the one who arranges my days.”
We can then with David, point ourselves to the only true Hope in this world, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Ps. 43:5). This moves us from the swamp of despair onto the firm ground of God’s Word.
Listen to the inner monologue going on in your heart; break in and speak truth to yourself. This is one step towards the joy that Jesus has for us. Then we can say with Asaph, “Whom have I in heaven but you, and earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25).
Prayer: “Lord, help me to be aware of what I am saying to myself, to evaluate it according to your Word, and to think Truth, so that you may be glorified and I may walk in the freedom you have bought for your children. Amen.”