In Psalm 42, the Sons of Korah repeat the following words:
“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.”
Voices in my Head
When I first read this as a young Christian, I thought the psalmists were begin schizophrenic. It was almost as if they had two competing voices in their heads saying two very different things. As I grew in my faith, I realized this is exactly what they are saying!
I constantly hear negative voices either from the world around me or in my own head. They tell me that God could never love me. They tell me that God couldn’t forgive me again. They tell me that I need to try harder to earn God’s approval.
That’s why I love this psalm so much. The psalmists had to speak truth into their own souls. They had to remind themselves about God’s character. They were experiencing hardship and pain in their souls and they practiced this unique spiritual discipline to help them get through it.
How to Speak to Your Soul
This is a skill that needs to be developed and I’m certainly a novice. But here are a few suggestions on how to speak to your own soul.
1. Talk out loud.
There is something about talking out loud that makes it easier to internalize truth. Not only are you speaking the truth, but you are also hearing it.
2. Memorize short Bible verses.
When you do this, you are better equipped to speak truth to your soul in the heat of the moment. Here are some examples:
Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. (John 10:14)
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. (Psalm 91:11)
3. Focus on the Gospel.
Take specific truths about the Gospel from Scripture, meditate on them, and speak their reality into your soul. For example, you could focus on the wondrous fact that Jesus became sin on your behalf even though He Himself never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21).
4. Rinse and repeat.
The composers of this psalm repeated the same stanza for a reason. Talking to your soul one time is not enough to drive in the truth. It takes much repetition, so speak to your soul over and over again.
5. Don’t feel guilty if you feel the same way afterwards.
Notice that the psalmists were experiencing turmoil even as they were writing the psalm. In other words, the act of speaking truth to their souls didn’t change how they felt immediately. Your soul might remain in a bad state afterwards, and that’s okay. Just remember that it takes time for the truth to sink in because of the barriers that we often build around our souls.
Speaking to your soul is a spiritual discipline that doesn’t come naturally, but eventually the truth will overcome. There will be a time when you “hope in God and shall again praise Him.”