It’s pretty much the only time, I think, when I should talk more than I listen.

You’ve been, there, I know: times like my morning a few days ago, when I tucked my feet beside me on the back porch, cup of tea in hand–mind splintered, floating in a deluge of concerns. I’d curled up to pray, but prayers kept colliding with the flotsam in my mind. I felt adrift; perhaps even a bit unmoored. Pretty sure I was just staring for a good portion of the time.

dock talking to yourself

The psalmist’s words in chapter 42 and 43 bubbled to the surface: Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed in me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him.

Somehow I’m thankful that the writer took the time to know his soul well, but also took the initiative to tow it towards shore.

Author Pete Scazzero wisely writes of his “Daily Office”, or quiet time,

We move into God’s presence and rest there. That alone is no small feat. For this reason I often spend five minutes centering down so I can let go of my tensions, distractions, and sensations and begin resting in the love of God.

Yet Scazzero also takes time to acknowledge where he’s at emotionally before God.

When we do not process before God the very feelings that make us human, such as fear or sadness or anger, we leak. Our churches are filled with “leaking” Christians who have not treated their emotions as a discipleship issue. [1]

Honestly, I needed both assertions in the choppy waters of my mind.

Like the psalmist, I needed time to simply recognize where my heart was. Yet I also needed to preach to myself—not simply listen. To not “leak” emotion and an unacknowledged spiritual state, slapping on the ol’ coat of whitewash—but to come honestly before God. And then, speak critical truth louder than what the rest of me is shouting.

Tim Keller writes,

We see that the phrase “I will yet praise him” is not a mere prediction of change but an active exercise…we see the psalmist not merely listening to his troubled heart but addressing it, taking his soul in his hand, saying, “Remember this, O Soul!”….

Change and hope come as we, in effect, argue with ourselves. [2, emphasis added]

John Piper, too, notes,

Hoping in God does not come naturally for sinners like us. We must preach it to ourselves, and preach diligently and forcefully….The best sermon you preach yourself this week may be only three words long: HOPE IN GOD!

I tend to flop like a fish to one extreme or the other: dwelling in my emotional funk or confusion or grief—or sailing over them, heart untouched in my blind, heedless determination.

Don’t get me wrong; we’re to fix our eyes on Jesus. Peter started sinking when he didn’t. And yet…I’m embarrassed at how often I can snap at my children immediately after time in prayer. I’m bewildered that I can feel like crying minutes after time with God, but that the issues somehow that didn’t come up in my most intimate conversations of the day; that I didn’t even detect my need for refuge in the motions of my devotion; didn’t present Him with what my heart was carrying.

I take heart in Keller’s timeless quote that

…all true prayer “pursued far enough, becomes praise.” It may take a long time or a lifetime, but all prayer that engages God and the world as they truly are will eventually end in praise.  [ibid, emphasis added]

I find that in my time with God, I need both to fully acknowledge the state of my soul in all its chaos and wondering–and also anchor it securely with a tether of truth as deep as the waters of my mind.

 

 

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[1] Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ. Kindle Edition.

[1] Keller, Timothy; Keller, Kathy (2015-11-10). The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

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