Soul Music: Talking to Myself in The Eye of The Storm

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.

If you prefer an acapella boys choir interpretation of “Be Still, My Soul”, check this one:

By the way I will be sharing the title of my book in the next few weeks.

Soul Music: Talking to Myself

“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?”[i]

That quote came back to me the other day, seemingly out of the blue. But this time I could even remember where I had seen it. It was from a sermon on spiritual depression by an English preacher named Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Pleased with my recall ability, I looked up the sermon on line to retrieve the larger context. The fact is, lots of people quote Lloyd-Jones—and for good reason. He was a wise and celebrated pastor in the last century.

The above quote is a response to David’s song of lament in Psalm 42. It’s a wonderful psalm with deep emotional and spiritual roots. You might even call it “soul music.” If you will indulge me, it may be more closely related to contemporary rap music than to traditional hymns. Reflect on David talking to himself in Psalm 42:

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.

We’ve all witnessed a driver in the car next to us at a stoplight who seems to be carrying on a dramatic conversation with an invisible passenger. He’s talking to himself, we assume. However, in today’s digital age with Blue Tooth and smart phones, it might be a woman reminding her husband to pick up milk after work.

I chuckle when I witness somebody actually conversing with himself or herself. In the interest of full disclosure, however…I do it, too. Consistently. I could try to blame it on my advancing years, but I also talked to myself when I was much younger. Some of my best conversations have been with myself. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve also done that.

I used to verbally talk through my sermons. There I was, alone in my office on a Saturday night, preaching to a large imaginary and appreciative congregation.

But let’s get back to our opening quote: “…Most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself.”

Life is tough. We are like batters standing at home plate with two outs and facing a two-strike count in the bottom of the ninth with the game on the line. Victory is in our hands to win or lose. The ace pitcher throws crazy curves, blazing fastballs and sneaky sliders past us. Our confidence wavers. We over-analyze, tiptoeing toward defeat. Our greatest problem is listening to the wrong coach—our old fallen nature or worse, the enemy’s accusing voice.

Let me share how the conversation goes when I listen to myself versus when I talk to myself. When I listen to myself I listen to my emotions and feelings. Talking to myself, however, is more like rehearsing what I already believe to be true.

Sometimes I wallow in my past sins and guilt rather than laying hold of God’s marvelous grace and the promise that His grace is always greater than my sin (Romans 5:20-21). Too often, I listen to the lie that I will always be a homeless loser wrapped in filth rather than God’s redeemed son, cleansed and forgiven, and seated with Christ in heavenly places

(Romans 6:3-4; Ephesians 2:6). When I listen to myself, I hear the voice saying “You blew it again, Syd, just like I said you would. You’ll never be good enough.” When I talk to myself I am reminded that even though I will never be “good enough,” it doesn’t matter. After all, it’s not about how good I am but how perfect Jesus Christ is. He’s the One who took my place, experiencing the just wrath of our holy God that I deserved. My feelings say I am a jerk; God says I am justified. I must remind myself that not only am I forgiven, God has charged the righteousness of Christ to my account. That’s justification, a big word for a truth that is beyond words.

Lloyd-Jones challenges us to always come back to the gospel of grace. It’s a matter of belief or unbelief, faith or feeling. The problem is unbelief; the solution is belief. When I am dwelling on my sin, have I forgotten that “the blood of Jesus Christ keeps on cleansing us from all sin”? (1 John 1:7, emphasis mine)

It’s a matter of focus, isn’t it? Remember when Peter clambered out of the fishing boat to walk on the storm-tossed Sea of Galilee? When his eyes were fixed upon the Master and his ears listening to Jesus’ inviting voice, Peter did the unthinkable. But when he looked at the waves and listened to the wind, he began to sink, only this time it was more than spiritual depression. It was the bottom of Davey Jones’ locker!

Faith, according to Hebrews12:2, “persists in looking at Christ—the Author and Perfecter of our faith.”

So I ask myself, “Who am I listening to? Who is shaping my thinking about my spiritual identity?” Is it the lying voice within or the promises of God? Am I listening to myself or talking to myself? Listen again to the musician:

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.

Deep down, do you believe that? Do you actually believe and take your stand on the fact that He is your salvation and your God?

If you do, then take a minute to tell yourself the truth.

For those who prefer music to conversation, I share a couple of sites to enjoy and be reminded of our standing before God even though our inner voices challenge our faith and try to condemn us. The first song, “Greater” by MercyMe is more contemporary and contrasts what we were before and after submitting to Jesus. The second song is a southern gospel rendition of Fanny Crosby’s classic “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it.”

So take your pick, but as you listen to the lyrics, let them talk to your soul.

Next week I invite you join me as we reflect on how “Soul Music” can encourage us when life is the pits and our emotions scream, “God, why have you deserted me?” [1] Martyn Lloyd Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 15