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“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.” (Psalm 42:11)
Most of the Psalms are directed towards the community of believers, encouraging them towards praise and communion with God. Other Psalms are directed towards God, expressions of worship or lament. But some Psalms, like Psalm 42, are directed inwardly. They are much needed reminders that often our biggest enemy in our life and faith is ourselves, and the messages we are telling ourselves. Listen to how the great Welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it:
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 problems of yesterday, etc.
Somebody is talking. Who is talking? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment 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.’…
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.’”
If only we would really believe the glorious gospel! If only our hearts truly knew, as Paul prayed, “the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18). We can be so quick to criticize and condemn ourselves, while God views us in Christ as His beloved children, without a hint of shame, guilt, or condemnation. Why are you so downcast? Put your hope in God, who loves you and is full of grace and mercy towards you!
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