Growing up, I was often warned of the dangers of talking to myself. Actually, it was answering myself that was jokingly said to be the problem. However, as it turns out, talking to yourself is quite an ancient and healthy practice.
In a time of apparent discouragement, an ancient Jewish poet saw the benefit of addressing his own soul. Psalm 42 seems to have been written in the middle of intense suffering. He describes constant weeping while onlookers mockingly ask, “Where is your God?” He feels like he’s being drowned and he wonders whether God has forgotten him.
The refrain of the poem reveals this poet’s self-talk, repeated in verses 5-6 and 11. First, he asks himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” For someone suffering significantly, we might expect some inner turmoil and discouragement. But then he encourages himself: “Hope in God.” These are not empty words. There is good reason to hope in God, and he explains the nature of his hope: “I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” He believes that he’ll have an opportunity to praise God when God comes to save him.
This self-talk is not some psychological strategy to make yourself feel better. Rather, this self-talk is shaped by God-talk, and it enables endurance. He begins by addressing God and acknowledging his deepest need: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Even in the middle of deep suffering, he recognizes that, more than the removal of the suffering, more than a change in circumstances, he just needs God himself.
For us, in seasons of suffering, in whatever form, talking to ourselves in this way might provide the key to enduring well. While discouragement might be triggered by suffering, the feeling might be comparable to a dry mouth that prompts you to drink. When discouragement sets in, it might be time to tell yourself to quench your thirst by going to Jesus who freely offers water that always satisfies (John 4:14; Revelation 21:6).
Mr. Justin Langley is Minister of Discipleship of Kilgore Bible Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.kilgorebiblechurch.org.