"I say to God, my rock: 'Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?'
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
'Where is your God?'
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."
Maybe, it's a bad habit that won't go away.
Maybe, it's that snarky relative you can't get along with.
Maybe, it's the coworker who constantly pesters you with mean-spirited questions about your faith.
Maybe, it's that looming doubt that perhaps not all is as it seems within your faith.
Maybe, it's the depression that pulls you deeper and deeper into reclusiveness.
Whatever it is, you just can't shake it. The nagging, upsetting, stomach-churning anxiety over something being not quite right in your sphere of influence. Do you know the feeling? Do you ever feel trapped inside your own head, wrestling with questions of how to respond and how to find your way back to Jesus?
You are not alone. I know the feeling well. It can be quite disconcerting when the feeling doesn't just go away. So, what do you do when you just can't shake it?
Here we sit with our emotions and some options:
1) Do nothing. We can sit idly and do absolutely nothing, allowing the thoughts and emotions to consume us over time within whatever situation we are experiencing. Perhaps after enough time has passed, apathy will simply replace our anxiety. Some would rather feel nothing than feel pain.
2) Throw a pity-party. We can fool ourselves into thinking we are solving the problem by moaning and groaning to our friends and families about our [fill in the blank] and how much it hurts. Now, talking about an issue is certainly not a bad thing--it can be quite healthy and helpful. But venting alone without any input from others can be suffocating to the soul (yours and theirs alike). Misery loves company, as they say. Why not try to convince everyone around us that our problem is unsolvable and our emotions are much too deep to be changed?
OR, there is a third option:
3) Preach to yourself. The songwriters and poets of the Book of Psalms in our Old Testament also knew these feelings and emotions that arise from certain situations quite well. They grappled with the emotions and struggled through the hurt. They boldly asked God questions and prayed for understanding and relief. Then, more often than not, they would do something quite peculiar: preach to themselves.
In Psalm 42 for example (I highly encourage you to read the whole song), the writer is battling inside his own head with questions of where God is in answer to his prayers for help. He longs for his heart to be affectionate towards God despite what seems to be silence. Those around him harass him, questioning God's existence. At one point, the writer even asks God directly "Why have you forgotten me?" Then, it happens.
The writer starts preaching hope to his own soul. "Why are you so downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God," he says to himself, "for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."
The writer does this twice in Psalm 42. Then, almost as a last swift kick to the negativity, he uses the exact same refrain at the end of Psalm 43. He knew what was true about God, and he knew (almost in an out-of-body sort of way) that his soul was not believing it in faith. So, he boldly proclaimed the truth to himself.
In Jeremiah 17:9, the prophet writes, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" It is true that our very own hearts can be tricked by themselves. The best weapon we have is to pray the Word of truth over the negativity and seemingly unshakable feelings inside our own souls.
Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. But, by the power of the Holy Spirit, placed in us through the love of Christ, we can even defeat our own negativity.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director @ IDES