TALK TO YOUR SOUL: CHAPTER 6
It’s often said that a person who speaks to himself is crazy. That’s not always true, however. One day, for instance, when I was first learning this great practice of speaking to my soul, I was taking a bath when my wife called through the door, “Who are you talking to? Who’s in there?” “Just me and my soul,” I answered. “I’m telling it a few things it needs to know?” Actually I was following in the footsteps of King David, who had the habit of instructing his soul in this way. Consider such verses as Psalm 103:1 where he said, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless His Holy name.” Throughout Psalms, David continually illustrates the biblical pattern of soul training in many similar verses.
Most Christians are familiar with David’s cry in Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God.” But how many really understand what’s going on here? David isn’t saying, “I pant after you.” No, he’s saying that a very distinct part of him, his soul, is that which pants after God.
In the next verse of this glorious psalm, David says “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God … I pour out my soul in me.” Notice that he says, “my soul in me.” David knew he had a soul — only too well. It was his untrained and uncontrolled soul that had gotten him in trouble with Bathsheba. But he also knew his soul could be guided, directed and taught. As we continue reading this psalm, notice what David eventually inquires of his soul; “Why art you cast down, O my soul?” In his depression he again asks, “Why art you disquieted in me?”
Immediately after this questioning, David turns to instructing his soul as he says, “Hope you in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Then he turns to God, involving Him in the training process, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember you…” He concludes the psalm by turning again to his soul in repetition, “Why art you cast down, O my soul? and why art you disquieted within me? hope you in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” If we read on to Psalm 43 we find David repeating the same instruction to his soul. This is because, as David knew, the soul won’t obey after one admonition. No, the retraining of the stubborn soul takes persistence and repetition, until the soul “gets it.”
David was experiencing a sort of internal war in that his spirit was saying something like, “Yes I believe in God. I know He loves and cares for me. He is my strength and health. I must praise Him.” But another part of him was crying out, “Where is God? I just don’t feel his presence. I feel lonely and forgotten by God.” It was his knowledge of this battle that caused him to rise up in his spirit and say, “Come on soul, stand up straight. Everything is going to be all right. Let’s worship the Lord.” In Psalm 116:7 David exhorts his soul, “Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” What’s happening here? David’s soul is disturbed (again!) and he tells it to rest. Have you ever been nervous or upset about something? Well, here’s the answer — tell yourself, firmly, to be at peace, to trust the Lord.
One of the soul’s problems is that it forgets and must constantly be reminded. For this reason, David said in Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” In the next several verses David actually enumerates those blessings in an attempt to fully remind the soul of God’s care. Be sure to read through this list of blessings for yourself to see what benefits God offers for your own soul.
Another way God wants us to retrain our souls is in the important ways we can uphold each other’s souls. Psalm 54:4 says, “Behold God is my helper; the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.” Sometimes don’t you just feel so weighed down that you long for somebody in your corner to uphold you? Moses felt that way when he sent Joshua and some chosen soldiers to battle with Amalek.
Moses sat on a hill overlooking the fight. When he held his hands up, Joshua prevailed in the battle. But when his hands grew tired and were lowering, Joshua began to lose. So Aaron and Hur found a rock and sat Moses on it. Then they held both his hands up until the sun was setting, and Joshua won the battle. This is very symbolic of what we can do for each other as we uphold one another’s soul during times of great stress.
Sometimes stress or other hard circumstances call for firmer measures than at other times. While encouraging our soul to “bless the Lord,” is necessary, sometimes we need to be a little more forceful, saying something like, “Stop! That’s it! You can’t do that anymore. You are not going to have emotional fits. You are not going to be depressed. You are not going to do your own thing!” Then you might follow up this negative instruction of what the soul is not going to do by telling it what it is going to do, such as, “Soul, you will rejoice in God your Savior today. Furthermore, you will commit to doing God’s Word today as opportunities present themselves. You will love that brother who’s been getting on your nerves lately. And you will give thanks for all things as God’s Word tells you to do.”
YOUR SOUL TALKS BACK
Sometimes your soul may talk back to you — just like a little child who is bound to have his own way. “But I don’t feel like giving God thanks. I don’t feel like rejoicing. I feel depressed.” Typical soulish nonsense! At such times you must take the soul firmly to task and say, “Yes, you do feel good today. God’s Word says this is the day He has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It’s important to draw from the Word when you instruct your soul. Use Scripture as evidence as to what your soul is to feel, desire, or do.
Sometimes I find myself awake in the middle of the night. Usually it’s when I have an important meeting at 6:00 A.M. and I’ve been up counseling until 2:00 A.M. I fall dead tired into bed and then every lump, real or imaginary, seems to find its way into my back. I may fall asleep for an hour or so and then wake up to a whining soul that says, “I’m tired and want to go to sleep, but I have insomnia.” Right then I have to stop myself and say, “Now wait a minute soul. I’ve told you this before and I’ll tell you again — God has saved you. 31
You’ve been redeemed and that includes your body, which belongs to Him. God will take care of that which belongs to Him. His word says, ‘For lo, he gives his beloved sleep.’ So, soul, calm down, relax and get some rest.” When my soul finally gets the message, sleep comes. Of course, when morning arrives and the alarms goes off, the battle begins again. This time the souls starts in with, “Four hours of sleep! Four terrible hours. And I just know the first thing that’s going to happen today is someone will approach me with a problem that needs solving right away — probably before I even get my breakfast! Well, I don’t want to hear any more problems, I don’t want…”
Once again, it’s time to train the soul by firmly responding to all this complaining with, “Soul, we’re going to rejoice today. Even though we had only four hours of sleep, they were restful hours from God and now, soul, it’s time to rise, shine and give God the glory! This is the day the Lord has made! We will rejoice and be glad in it!”
Let’s face it, even after a good night’s sleep, it’s often hard to face the new day with a soul that’s trained to satisfy the needs of the self. Many people have bad days because they’ve allowed themselves to have bad mornings.
DOES THE FOLLOWING SOUND FAMILIAR?
It’s 6:00 A.M. “Beeeep.” The alarm goes off.
“Arrgghh,” I groan.
“Honey,” my wife nudges.
“Honey, that’s the alarm.”
“I heard it!”
“Well then, get up. You have to go to work.”
“Work, work, work. Every day, work,” I grumble. “Why don’t they make a four day weekend? Work, work. Blue Monday. Boy will I be glad when I reach sixty-five. I am going to retire and then I’ll buy myself a thousand alarm clocks and I’m going to throw every one of them into the ocean …. ringing. And I’m going to watch them all drown …. where’s my shoes? I put them right here and they’re gone!”32 “Well they certainly didn’t walk off in the middle of the night,” my wife answers. “They must have. Oh, wait, here they are. Now, where are my clean shorts?” “They must still be down in the dryer.”
“DOWN IN THE DRYER?! They’re supposed to be in my drawer. What are they doing down in the dryer?”
So I walk downstairs to the bathroom, turn the lights on and start to shave. I cut myself. “I knew it! Another rotten day. Another rotten week. Oh Lord, where are you! Help me!” There it is, the setup for a rotten day. I’ve trained my soul to expect the worst. Let’s back up and start the morning again — this time the right way. “Beeeep.” The alarm goes off. “Arrgghh…” the groaning starts.
“Wait a minute, soul. This is the day the Lord has made! Remember that verse? Let’s lay here for a minute. Open your eyes. Consider the day ahead. It’s a day the Lord has made — for you!”
Then I turn to my wife. “Honey, how did you sleep?” “Wonderful. I slept in the arms of the Lord.” (She’s trained her soul too!). “How did you sleep, dear?”
“Great. This is a good day to be alive. I love you, honey.” “I love you too.”
“I think I’m going to lay here for a few minutes and praise the Lord. Thank you Father for giving me a ministry, a good wife, fine children, and the opportunity to serve you. Thank you for saving me. Lord, I look forward to what you’re going to do today. It’ll be a day of adventure and I want you to live through me today.” Now that’s training your soul.
CAGE THE MONKEY
Some people will say, “I’ve got to follow my feelings or I’ll be a hypocrite.” Or some will say, “If I don’t feel like it, I can’t do it.”
But look what happens when you don’t train your soul and follow your feelings instead. When you follow your feelings, your soul will be like a jungle chimpanzee, chirping and bouncing around — going first after this, then chasing after that. If you’re going to experience 33 victory in this life, you’re going to have to put that monkey in a cage.
At one point David said he chastened his soul with fasting. Sometimes the soul needs a good chastening or some strongly-worded faith-filled instruction. What it doesn’t need, but often receives, is for us to baby it and spoil it by giving in to its fleeting whims.
Love your soul — yes. Baby and spoil it — no. Like an undisciplined child, our soul needs to go through the lifelong process of training and chastening, training and chastening. Of course, as time goes by, you’ll notice how nicely the soul will respond. The soul, although a slow learner is also a very good learner and responds to the rewards it receives by being submitted to the spirit. Honestly now, aren’t you tired of following your emotions, of losing authority over your thought life, of welcoming every vagrant thought that wanders into your mind? Such a life can never find the fulfillment it seeks from such activity. The result of failing to train your soul is only increasing restlessness and a failure to enter the true work God has for you.
Imagine how different your life would be if you had centered your life around the Word of God since your youth. Imagine how transformed you will be when your emotional and mental life and your will are aligned with God’s purposes, expressing the life of Jesus through the operation of the Holy Spirit in you.
Perhaps you look at your circumstances and feel discouraged, as if all this talk about retraining your soul is too great a task or that your particular situation is beyond the ability of God to transform. There were times at my lowest point when I had lost all hope and yet God in His mercy proved powerful enough to restore all that I had lost due to my soulish behavior.
God’s Word is indeed powerful enough to make any change in you, but you must practice it. Be persistent. Remember, you’ve spent years practicing the wrong things. I’m nearly seventy now, and originally began the practice of training my soul more than thirty years ago. Today there are still new areas of my soul life that I am discovering which must be brought under the control of my spirit.
Such discovery is not a weight to me, as some might suppose, but a call from God to come higher in Him, to become more Christ-like with each advancing year. How thankful I am that He gives us all the grace and mercy to be like His Son!
Why not commit, just now, to enrolling your soul in the school whose teacher is your spirit and whose Principal is the Holy Spirit, and whose textbook is the Word of God. Gradually your strengthened spirit will gain mastery over the unruly soul which in turn will become that beautiful instrument of expression and praise that will bless the Lord. In and through you, Jesus Christ will be manifest and our Heavenly Father glorified. Remember we have been predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. What a wonderful hope
– FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION –
- Have you ever talked to yourself, trying to convince yourself that there was nothing to worry about or fear? Do you think the impulse to talk to ourselves (our souls) is possibly an evidence that God has devised a way in which such behaviour can really benefit us?
- Have you ever had a close friend go through deep waters and felt the urge to uphold their souls as Aaron and Hur did for Moses? Has anyone ever upheld you in this way? What difference did it make?
- How different would your life be today if you had been taught and trained from the Word of God since