“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.’”
Years ago as we watched my mother-in-law struggle with old age, it is painful to see her fight for her significance. All her life she has 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 then they were all gone and she had only an inner, undefined emptiness, which she didn’t know how to deal with. She was unhappy, sad and angry.
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 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 instead to recognize these thoughts and 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.”
David practiced this in Psalm 43. First he listened to himself: “Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” (Ps. 43:2). This is how David felt, but his statements were not true: God had not rejected him, and he didn’t need to go about mourning. And worse, David was blaming God for this, implying that, “If you are my stronghold, why are you failing to protect me??!”
However, David went on to process his own thoughts by speaking truth to himself. At the end of the Psalm, David said, “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). He was moving out of 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 choose to think Truth, so that you may be glorified and I may walk in the freedom you have bought for your children. Amen.”