(This article appeared in the Bryan Eagle in August 2021).
When you lie down in your bed at night, or when you awake in the morning and your house is quiet and still, what voices do you hear? What are the thoughts that fill your mind when your gadgets and books aren’t there to distract you? Perhaps you hear words like these:
“I’ve made a mess of everything.”
“My best years are behind me.”
“God could not possibly love someone like me.”
Maybe you repeat those words to yourself, over and over again, until they seem like indisputable facts. You find yourself caught in a loop, one that causes you to question God’s goodness and love for you. Not long ago, I heard a quote from the well-known 20th Century preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here’s what he had to say about those words of condemnation that we heap upon ourselves in those moments of quiet reflection:
“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? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.’”
Lloyd-Jones goes on to say that the Bible provides us with a way to counter these unwelcome inner thoughts. We see it in Psalm 42, as he points out, but we also see it in other places in the Scripture. We have to talk back to ourselves! Lloyd-Jones elaborates on this concept by saying, “The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself…You must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledge Himself to do.” In other words, we must fill our minds and our hearts with God’s Word, and then constantly remind ourselves of what it says.
Instead of listening to those voices of discouragement and condemnation, we must talk back to them. The ammunition that we need to fight those voices comes from constantly meditating on God’s Word.
This is why, in Psalm 63, David wrote that He “meditates on [God] in the night watches.” When David laid down to sleep at night, he heard the same voices that we often hear.
“God has abandoned me.”
“I am all alone.”
“My life is a mess.”
But he refused to listen to those voices. Instead, he began to meditate upon God’s perfect, loving character. He reminded himself that God had always been his help and his protection. As he meditated upon the truth, those voices of insecurity and condemnation grew quieter.
Talking back to those voices won’t change the reality of our circumstances, of course. Nor will it permanently ease all of our anxiety and insecurity. However, our minds habitually repeat to us whatever thoughts we put into them.
There is very real benefit, then, in constantly and intentionally talking back to ourselves and meditating instead upon what is true about God and about us. For example, remind yourself that He loves you more than you can imagine. If you know Him, you can remember that your best days are still ahead of you. And you can tell yourself that you’re never, ever alone.
So, the next time the house is quiet, and you hear those voices of shame and fear, talk back to them. Say, “Self, I have some important things to tell you, and you must listen carefully.” Then you can close your eyes and rest, secure in the love of the God who watches over you, and who loves you more than you know.