I woke up sick that morning. “I’ll never make it to the end of the day,” I muttered to myself.
My husband was due to leave town for work. “How am I going to manage the kids while feeling like this?” These thoughts traveled with me throughout the day, spawning new ones. “This is too much, I just can’t do it.” “Can’t they see that I am sick? Why can’t they listen for once?” Before I knew it, I was overwhelmed, stressed, irritable, distraught.
Talking to Ourselves
I remember teasing my mother for talking out loud to herself. Now I find myself doing the same thing. While most of us may not be in the habit of talking out loud to ourselves, we all keep some kind of internal dialogue. The problem is that we all too often fail to talk back to ourselves.
The psalmist in Psalm 42 was feeling deep sorrow, “My tears have been my food day and night” (verse 3). But he talked to himself, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why are you so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). In this psalm, the writer challenges and confronts himself with the truth.
In the book of Lamentations, the poet does the same thing. He had also been through an intense trial. He was weary and worn and felt as though he had lost all hope. Throughout the book, he lamented over the sin of the people and God’s subsequent judgment. He voices his despair, “I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lᴏʀᴅ’” (Lamentations 3:17–18).
But he didn’t stay there. He spoke his lament. He voiced the depths of his sorrow and pain, and then he reminded himself of what he knew to be true. Though he felt like he had no hope, he reminded himself that he actually did have hope. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope; The steadfast love of the Lᴏʀᴅ never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lᴏʀᴅ is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’ (Lamentations 3:21–24).
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul talks about taking “every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” When we feel overwhelmed, stressed, worried, anxious, fearful, or in despair, we need to talk back to ourselves. We need to speak the truth of the gospel to ourselves. Like the psalmist in Psalm 42, and like the writer of Lamentations, we need to point ourselves to the hope we have in Christ.
In his book, Spiritual Depression, Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote,
You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down — what business have you to be disquieted?’ You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’ — instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then 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 pledged himself to do. (21)
Four Truths Worth Remembering
So what is the truth that we need to say to ourselves? What can we say to ourselves when we feel overwhelmed by life, or fearful of the unknown future, or despairing over a trial?
1. Remember God is sovereign.
We should remind ourselves that God is in control of everything (Isaiah 40; Proverbs 21:1). He holds the world in his hands. Nothing happens outside his will. In fact, he is not surprised by our circumstances (Job 28:24; Lamentations 3:37–38; Genesis 50:20). What is happening to us is not by chance. Rather, it is from the hand of God for our good.
2. Remember who we are in Christ.
We should remind ourselves of who we are in Christ. Because Christ redeemed us from sin, we are no longer slaves to sin (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are adopted sons and daughters of the Most High (Romans 8:15). God loves us like he loves his Son (John 17:23). God looks at us and sees the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Christ, we are now the heirs of his Kingdom (1 Peter 1:4).
3. Remember God’s character.
We should remind ourselves of who God is — of who he’s revealed himself to be. He is good, he is holy, he is just (Daniel 4:37). He is all-powerful, all-knowing, forever faithful (Hebrews 10:23). He is gracious, merciful, and kind (Psalm 103:8). And all of his character, of course, is seen definitively in Jesus himself, as Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
4. Remember God’s promises.
We should remind ourselves of God’s promises. He has promised salvation for everyone who calls on his name (Acts 2:21; John 6:37). He is always with us (Joshua 1:9; Matthew 28:20). He has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Romans 8:35–39). He hears us when we cry out to him (Psalm 34:15; Psalm 86:5–8). He will meet all our needs (Philippians 4:19; Romans 8:32). He has promised us eternity with him in heaven (John 14:2–3; 1 John 2:25).
The next time you face a trial and find yourself thinking such thoughts as “I’ll never get through this,” speak the truth. Go ahead. It’s okay to talk to yourself. Preach the gospel to yourself. Remind yourself of the hope you have because of Christ Jesus.
Related resources from Desiring God:
Preach the Gospel to Yourself (Theology Refresh with Paul Tripp)
Seven Things That Transform Suffering (Vaneetha Rendall Demski)
The Shelf Life on Preaching the Gospel to Yourself (David Mathis)