Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
A few years ago, I took up distance-running, not because I’m athletic, but because my britches were getting tight. Since then I’ve (slowly) run a few half-marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks. You gotta love a sport where the goal is finishing, not winning!
On longer runs, you can hit a wall, so to speak, so one endurance strategy is to choose an object within sight and say to yourself, “I’m only going to go to that point, then stop.” When you reach that point, lather, rinse, repeat. For reasons I can’t explain, this works. The mind tricks the body, and the body keeps going.
Endurance in hard times can be like this—our perseverance requires self-talk, except that it’s not lying to ourselves, but truthing. In a sermon on Psalm 42:11 (Why so downcast oh my soul? Put your hope in God!), Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones put it this way: “[The Psalmist’s] soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, ‘Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.’”
In other words, we do a lot of listening to discouraging thoughts and the Enemy’s lies, so the best way to disarm them is by telling ourselves what is true.
Whenever troubling thoughts come my way, they tend to strike in deep night. When I awake, my mind moves towards worries and doubts and regrets. Soon, the Enemy begins to have his way with me, gnawing at my soul.
How do I strike back? I sing to myself (not out loud, of course!).
Lately, my choice weapons are “Fairest Lord Jesus” and “He Will Hold Me Fast.” Sometimes it only takes a couple of verses, but often, several replays are required. As I persevere in singing, though, I soon return to sleep.
Now this is never an emotional experience, per se. I don’t feel all gushy. In fact, I don’t feel much at all. That’s because it’s not about feeling, but fighting—by singing truth, I combat the Enemy’s lies with truths of my Savior and Refuge.
Fellow Christian, when trouble comes your way; when you’re feeling sad or discouraged or despairing, sing to yourself! It won’t change your circumstances, but it will renew your mind with a Christ-shaped perspective.
Pastor of Congregational Care
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