"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" (Psalm 42).
I was walking in the sunshine across the Meadows yesterday afternoon to pick up the boys from nursery. As I began to think through the implications of the school closures a few tears came of my eyes (what is wrong with me and the waterworks this week!?). Then my mind went to this Psalm. Notice the Psalmist is feeling distressed by his circumstances that make him feel like he is drowning, but he starts questioning his thoughts and feelings. He is not passive allowing the train of thought to run away, but actively asserts some control and reminds himself of truth. As Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones famously advised from this psalm: "Do you realize that most of your unhappiness is a result of listening to yourself, rather than talking to yourself".
By this time I was walking past the Edinburgh Clinic and realised that what the Psalmist is doing is essentially CBT - cognitive behaviour therapy. The difference between secular and Christian CBT essentially comes down to the fact that we have truth that is backed by God's power to remind and preach to ourselves! In these days ahead, we're going to be hearing and reading so much information about the virus, the impact on the economy, the surreal disruption to normal life; we're also going to feel all sorts of emotions as we face isolation, time off work, sickness and grief too. In all this we are going to have to fight the temptation to just be a sponge that absorbs and is weighed down, engorged with the fear that is stalking all around us. Instead we are going to need to talk to ourselves about God and His promises - to help us talk to ourselves: we can put on good Christian music that declares truth, we can read and listen to our bibles, we can listen or watch sermons, we can pick up books that will be good for our souls. So today when you catch yourself listening to yourself, remember you have full permission to talk to yourself instead!
Oh and don’t be surprised that you have to do it more than once. After pick up and sitting at the bus stop, explaining that nursery was going to be closing for “the summer holidays”, I started to cry (discretely) again. The Psalmist too has to cycle through doing this multiple times in Psalm 42-43!