Sometimes we have no one to encourage us at the break of day, so we have to speak to ourselves, saying something like: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Try saying that aloud with enthusiasm upon rising each day. It will make a difference to the way your day unfolds because you are looking at your day in a positive light.
Outside of praying, your most important words are the ones you say to yourself. These words are most often silent but significant. Pop psychologists call this positive self-talk, but I’m going to skip the trends and go straight to Scripture. Did Paul, the apostle who wrote over 1/3 of the New Testament, ever talk to himself?
He said he strove to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). He said, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22 NIV). He said, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). And, he also was the one who said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
One of my mentors long ago preached a sermon on how to handle negative thoughts, and I still remember the outline (and can actually locate my notes): Don’t curse them; Don’t nurse them; Don’t rehearse them; Disperse them. That’s still a good formula! Push out your negative thoughts — worry, anxiety, fear, pessimism — by filling your mind with God’s Word, the Scriptures, especially His promises. And then preach those promises to yourself.
A medical doctor who is also a world-class athlete was asked how he accomplished all that he did even when approaching the age of 60 (including running triathlons). He said, “I’ve learned to talk to myself instead of listening to myself. If I listen to myself, I hear all the reasons why I should give up. I hear that I’m too tired, too old, too weak to make it. But if I talk to myself, I can give myself the encouragement and words I need to hear to keep running and finish the race.”
In Psalm 42 the psalmist said to himself, “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” (verse 11).
We don’t know the author of Psalm 42, but it might have been King David, because he knew how to preach to himself when needed. As a younger man, a series of disastrous problems had befallen David in a town called Ziklag. His family and the families of his men had been kidnapped, and even his own men we’re turning on him and talking about stoning him to death.
What did David do? He preached to himself. He “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). And in that strength he rose up to tackle his problems with a positive spirit that came from his belief in God’s watchful care of his life.
Jeremiah did the same. After watching his city go up in flames and his nation go down in defeat, he said in Lamentations 3:21-23: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
This is what we must do. If we listen to the negative tapes looping around in our thoughts, we’ll sink into the pessimism of the devil. How could I have been so stupid? What’s wrong with me? Everything is falling apart. This is a disaster. Why is this happening to me?
Stop the tape! Here’s a better one: I know in Whom I believe, and I am persuaded He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him. Why are you cast down? Hope in God. I’ll soon be praising Him again, for He is the health of my countenance. I’m going to recall something and keep it in mind — the Lord is merciful, and His compassions won’t fail me. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
We are constantly processing thoughts. Depending on how active your mind is, you may produce more than 45,000 thoughts a day. Whew! It might be compared to a flock of birds flying in and out of your mind.
To complicate our minds more, not all these are conscious thoughts, and sometimes they pass so fleetingly we barely notice them. However, every time you have a thought, it triggers an electrochemical reaction in your body … Each thought sets of a biological process — about 400 billion at once. Because of that thought, chemicals surge through the body, producing electromagnetic waves. These set off emotions, which affect how we behave. Science simply confirms what Scripture has been saying all along: we are shaped, in large part, by our thoughts.
So, you should be careful what you think and what “preach to yourself.” As Ephesians 4:29 NLT advises: “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” This, of course, includes the words that only you hear as you speak to yourself.