BY JORDAN MAYER
"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."
One of the things that I love most about the Psalms is the place of honesty that they’re written from. They are often intense, raw, and desperate pleas for God’s deliverance and intervention. They remind me of the importance of coming before God in prayer just as I am. Not some polished, put-together Christian that never has a fear, worry, or moment of anxiety, but someone who is well acquainted with laying their burdens and their baggage at the foot of the Cross.
Yet, there’s something else contained within the Psalms that is a true spoil of the Word. It’s present here in Psalm 42. The author (possibly David) is in turmoil. He’s in such distress that he can’t eat, so instead it’s the tears running down his cheeks that have been his food day and night. A quick skim through the books of Samuel will provide no shortage of reasons for why David might be in such deep despair. But despite the way he is feeling, what he writes in verse 5 is truly transforming. He begins preaching to his own soul! He turns the tables by challenging his own thoughts and redirecting his attention. He says, "Listen here, soul, it's time for me to do the talking".
In his book, Spiritual Depression, D. Martyn Lloyd Jones references this very passage in the following excerpt. “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? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.”
Our minds are powerful, as God created them to be. But without being subdued, we can quickly become a prisoner of our own thoughts. We can be dragged to and fro by the things that dominate our thinking. 2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ. In the same way that we exercise self-control in our actions and the words that we speak, we are called to reign in our thoughts and submit them to Christ. To think on the things above and not on the things below (Colossians 3:2).
So what have you been thinking about? Or maybe a better question, who have you been listening to? What negative thoughts have been swirling around in your mind causing you to despair and lose hope? What lies have taken root in your mind that have taught you to take your eyes off God and focus on your circumstances? Take a moment to inventory your thoughts. Then take the opportunity to preach the truth to yourself as David did. Go before the Lord and pour out your heart to Him. Cast your anxieties on Him, but don’t end there. Be reminded that our hope is in God. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) Take heart, dear brother or sister, and hope in God.