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, 11; 43:5
Last week on The Front Porch Swing I confessed that I often talk to myself, finding it therapeutic. But when I choose to listen to myself—and the accusing voices within—I lose the joy of salvation by grace through faith. I feel abandoned and overwhelmed.
The solution? Be careful who you listen to. Keep your ear tuned to the frequency of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Always remember and reflect on God’s promises that I can do nothing to make Him love me more than He already does.
This week, let’s focus on how soul talk can encourage us in the eye of the storm. Sometimes life is the pits. Things seem wildly unfair or out of kilter. We pray for relief, but God is silent. We feel He has abandoned us like an absent and distracted father.
The operative word here is feel.
We begin to listen to ourselves. The Accuser joins the battle for and in our minds. As he does, faith falters, and the songs of praise we sang yesterday are replaced with sour lament.
Listen to the psalmist in Psalm 42:3. He feels like a deer wandering through a trackless desert: “My tears have become my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’” That last question is the most painful one of all. “Where is your God?”
His emotions scream, “I am no better than a dehydrated deer ready to collapse.” His accusers mock, “Where is your God now that you really need Him?” Do you pick up what’s happening here? At this moment he is listening to himself rather than talking to himself.
Repetition within Psalms 42 and 43 seem to couple these two poems like cars on a train or two verses of a song. Twice the musician asks himself, “Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (42:9; 43:2) Three times he asks, “Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (42:5, 11; 43:5) That is the sound of life in the pits!
Three times the musician reveals his spiritual depression caused by listening to himself and focusing on his circumstances. Three times he responds by talking to himself, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” The psalmist finally turns the corner, climbing out of the pit of self pity and onto the pinnacle of praise.
Like the song writer, I can choose to stop listening to the wrong voices. I can talk to myself, reminding myself of God promises and His character. Faithful to a fault, He promises never to leave or forsake me in the eye of the storm. Jesus came to His frightened men in the darkness to calm their raging sea. He still does the same for you and me.
While preparing this blog, another story was spinning in my life—a real life story illustrating what it means to stand by faith in the eye of the storm. Kirk and Sandlin Poth, our dear friends who are church planters in Ireland, have a little two-year-old granddaughter, Oakley, who was diagnosed leukemia. Fervent prayer was released throughout the USA and the world to find a bone morrow match for Oakley. None was discovered. Therapy robbed her of her blond hair and her strength. Eighty days in the hospital surrounded by her family and supported by prayer brought hope but eventually no relief. Oakley was released to come home to her family where, after a few days, she passed from this life into the presence of Jesus.
Throughout these months of hospitalization and treatments scores, if not hundreds, of people prayed for Oakley’s healing. Her parents and grandparents walked together through their personal storm. Her father, Zach, posted regularly on Oakley’s Caring Bridge site. I just revisited and perused the messages on Oakley’s site. I read promises from many friends to pray for Oakley. I read words from her father that resonated with faith and confidence in God. I was brought nearly to tears.
In Zach’s posts I saw a man talking to his soul rather than listening to himself or the storm swirling outside and inside both the hospital and his heart. I read eulogies from Oakley’s father and grandparents—eulogies resonating with faith and confidence that God remains faithful and good even if the story doesn’t end the way we had requested.
I realize the journey through grief has just begun for Oakley’s family. Emotional reserves have been depleted. Sleep deprivation has taken its toll on caregivers. Prayer for those left behind remains critical. May God give grace to trust even when we don’t understand or feel His hands. Let us trust His heart.
After more than four decades in the ministry, I testify one of the most severe experiences in ministry is standing by a tiny coffin. It makes no sense. There are no answers. So let us talk to ourselves by rehearsing what we believe and have experienced to be true.
Often I find myself singing an old hymn to myself, “Be Still, My Soul! The Lord is on thy side; bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to thy God to order and provide; in every change He faithful will remain. Be still, My soul! Thy best, thy heavenly Friend thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.” Now, that is real soul music.
I encourage you to visit the following Websites and let the lyrics speak to your soul:
The lyrics of the song, “Even If” by MercyMe are profound. When I can’t understand, I can trust.
For you who prefer traditional hymns, check out “Be Still, My Soul,” by Kari Jobe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq59iE3MhXM
If you prefer an acapella boys choir interpretation of “Be Still, My Soul”, check this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqgC1tqifV8
By the way I will be sharing the title of my book in the next few weeks.