Many years ago, the great Welsh preacher Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a book entitled Spiritual Depression. The book is based on a collection of sermons on Psalm 42. Verse 5 reads, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Commenting on this verse, Lloyd-Jones says the following.
The Doctor Says: “Start Talking to Yourself”
Every morning our own hearts are speaking to us, expressing our desires, fears, sorrows, pains, and joys. Lloyd-Jones isn’t telling us to not listen to our hearts, but that we should not be a silent listener – we must speak back. If we don’t, our hearts will more often than not lead us to a place of being downcast.
In this passage, notice the Psalmist is lamenting his problems honestly, yet does not stop there. He continues to speak truth to himself, and eventually his tone changes. In fact, you will notice that many of the Psalms follow this same pattern. They provide a model of shepherding our own hearts Godward each day as we speak truth to ourselves: the truth of who God is and what he has done for us leading to security and joy and in God.
So how do we do this?
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:
Lewis says we keep the wild animal at bay by unleashing the more powerful, yet gentle, voice of God. We let the words of God become our words to ourselves – we must preach to ourselves.
When I was in seminary, a friend of mine would wake up every morning and walk around the campus reading the Psalms out loud; they were his prayers and as he would say, "the way they were meant to be read". While I do not read the Psalms out loud everyday, I know how helpful it is to read the Psalms as prayers. It is valuable tool to learn to the art of preaching to my own soul, and stop listening to my self.
Lloyd-Jones explains that the Psalms show God-centeredness as the remedy: