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Look Who's Talking


Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.
(Psalm 42:5)

During my time as a police officer in N. Ireland we were shown a training video that advocated the importance of speaking positively to oneself should you be shot or seriously injured in the line of duty. Speaking calmly, consistently, and confidently to oneself about a positive outcome was said to help the injured officer from going into shock. It was not a guarantee of survival, but it helped an officer give himself a fighting chance. Studies from several police departments in the USA had shown that certain officers had died from gunshot wounds that seemed survivable. Medical examiners and investigators concluded that the police officers had probably said to themselves, "I am shot and I am going to die." They did not help themselves by what they said to themselves. Their words became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The message of that video to us that day was that what we say to ourselves is vastly important.

In Psalm 42 we meet a Levite in a rather melancholic mood (Psa. 42:5, 11). This son of Korah is at low tide physically, emotionally and spiritually (Psa. 42:3, 7, 9). He is cast down in spirit due to the fact that he is living in exile from the Temple in Jerusalem, possibly in Aram, Assyria, or Babylon (Psa. 42:1-2, 4). To make matters worse his enemies taunted him on a daily basis regarding the seeming lack of God's presence, and protection in his life (Psa. 42:3, 10). Here is a man who is physically alive, but dying on the inside, a man adrift on a sea of wild emotions. The author of this ancient poem is a man bent over with care, dealing with the absence of desirable things, and the presence of difficult things.

Of interest to us is the fact that the psalmist looks his depression square in the eye, and faces up to his feelings. He does not allow himself the luxury of self-pity. Therefore the writer begins to interrogate, interrupt, and instruct himself. "Why are you cast down, O my soul," he asks himself (Psalm 42:5, 11). He talks to himself; he does not allow self to talk to him. He takes charge of the conversation that has been raging in his head. He begins to steer his internal thoughts in a more godly direction. Like this psalm other psalms are full of self-talk, reminding us of the need to actively and aggressively talk sense, and Scripture to ourselves (Psa. 62:5; 103:1-5). Ordering our thoughts away from the bad and unto the good, away from lies and unto truth, and away from self and unto God is the path to peace (Phil. 4:6-9). Listen to Ben Patterson as he writes about this psalm, and this issue: "Feelings can be like unruly children, and like unruly children they must not be allowed to have the last word. Let them sound off, but then tell yourself what is true . . . Talk back to yourself and affirm the truth that ‘I will praise Him again – my Savior and my God." Remember! Talking to yourself is not a sign of insanity.

Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be an echo of the truth and promises Your Word has provided for me. When I do not understand the circumstances that are taking place, I will proclaim Your Words to my soul rather than allow my ears to be clouded by half-truths of the accuser. Amen.