Engaging In Soulful Self-Preaching
“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.” (Psalm 42:5-6)
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones presented his astounding commentary on this great psalm in one of my favorite books of all time, “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures,” which is perhaps the closest to his magnum opus, he said:
“The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow ourselves to talk to us instead of talking to ourselves.”
At first glance, it appears that the Doctor is attempting to be purposely paradoxical here – I mean, I’m allowing myself to talk to myself instead of me talking to myself? How on earth is that even possible? Does that even make sense? Is that even comprehensible? Admittedly, I understand half of his sentiment since I frequently find myself unknowingly speaking to myself. But here’s my dilemma: where do I fit on the spectrum? Whenever I do that, am I talking to myself or am I allowing myself to talk to me?
STOP LISTENING TO YOURSELF AND START TALKING TO YOURSELF
Well, the good thing is that Lloyd-Jones didn’t end there. The apparent conflict between the two becomes clearer afterwards, allowing us to understand what Lloyd-Jones was trying to convey when he said that. He then goes on to say, “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 start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Yourself is talking to you.” There is the answer. Lloyd-Jones warns us that it is through listening to ourselves that we allow ourselves to speak directly to us. He stated emphatically that most of our life’s depressing situations are caused by us listening to ourselves. He brought up an aspect of our dilemma that most of us are unaware of: we are constantly listening to ourselves! We allow miseries and sufferings to captivate us because we regularly allow ourselves to speak to us now and then. The Doctor was able to determine one of the main causes of our unsettled souls, that is – we listen to ourselves!
Isn’t it true for most of us Christians? We love listening to ourselves. How many of us would concede to that truth? Isn't it true that we tend to embrace the apathy and pity that ourselves are seeking to bring home in us whenever we feel indifferent and out of place with some of our brethren? Whenever we are overwhelmed with the problems of this world? Whenever we slip into committing sin? And how prone we are to let ourselves speak to us in ways that would lead us further away from God? Not only that but the anxieties of tomorrow. The troubles of the previous. The fears of the future. The cares of the yesterday. Ourselves love to talk about them to us. They love to smack them in our faces. They love to hammer them into our heads. They love to drill them into our hearts. That’s what ourselves are capable of doing in us. Well did put by D.L Moody, “I have never met a man who has given me as much trouble as myself.” “The flesh is a worse enemy,” said the English Puritan Isaac Ambrose, “than the devil himself.” Indeed, the greatest enemy of all that we should truly dread is nothing but ourselves. And we carry them inside of us every day.
PREACH THE TRUTHS OF GOD TO YOURSELF
In Psalm 42, the man was doing the exact opposite. He has been debarred from entering God's house for serious reasons, that’s why his soul yearns for God (v.2), tears have become his food day and night, and his foes have taunted him, “Where is your God?” (v.3) Despite his feelings of being abandoned by God (v.9) he didn’t allow himself to dictate himself. Instead, he dictated himself. As Lloyd-Jones adds, “...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 repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.’” We should preach to ourselves! That’s what Lloyd-Jones is simply saying here.
Not everyone is called to preach in the pulpit, but everyone can preach to themselves. We must take heed and know this thing. We must learn to preach the truths of God to ourselves because no one talks to ourselves more than we do. And no matter how intellectually staggered we are of this great faith that we have, we are repeatedly tempted to forget them. Like how we spend much time reading our Bibles and the moment that we close it and spend the day, we forget so much of it and remember so little, it is as if we have never read it. Almost all of us can attest to this great and profound struggle that looms every day.
Finally, Lloyd-Jones concludes it: “The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.’”
PREACH TO YOURSELF WHO YOU ARE IN GOD
In honest admission, I am the one who frequently fails at this. All of the words that I have written above, as well as what Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, are more of a reminder to myself than to the rest of the readers. And I acknowledge that I am unable to do any of these without God’s help. I am inadequate and incapable in and of myself, I confess. For that reason, I do humbly entreat our great God to help me constantly remind and say this to my soul:
“O my soul, you are a child of God! From the kingdom of darkness, you are now in the kingdom of the Son! By faith, you are united to the One who lived and died for you! You are now seated with Him in the heavenly places! Bless your Lord, O my soul! Christ is interceding for you at this very moment! You have died already and your life is now hidden with Christ in God! Your God has made His dwelling place in you through the Holy Spirit! And so away with your self-pity and self-loathing, O my soul, avoid them at all costs! Kill them! Abhor them! Mortify them through the power of your Helper! Rejoice in God, O my soul! No good thing will He withhold from you! All things will work together for your good! Nothing in all creation will ever separate you from His love through Christ! O delight in Him, my soul, for you are in Christ and Christ is in you! Your sins have already been forgiven and forgotten. Your prayers are still remembered! And In your sufferings, God will provide more of Christ for you! Your God will be forevermore for you and with you! O my soul, aren’t these truths worth meditating on every day? Nail these into your head! Tie these around your neck! Bind these inside your heart! Never go a day without reflecting on these glorious realities of who you are in your God! O my soul, hope in your God; and again praise Him, your salvation and your God!”