Self Encouragement

I was having a frazzled kind of day.  Not anything in particular was going badly, I just felt somehow entirely discombobulated.  You know those days where too little sleep and too many racing thoughts start taking their toll?  I felt a bit as though a piece of me was going in one direction, and another piece was pulling in an entirely different direction, and no pieces were clear in their purpose.  It was one of those existential “What am I doing here?” kind of days.

Then I posted the Matchless article.  As I was giving it a final read-through before posting, I suddenly realized it was exactly what I needed to hear.  I needed to be reminded that even on days when I feel floundering and purposeless, there is still a reason I am right here, right now.  That God created me, just as I am, for a reason.  In a strange sort of way, I spoke to myself the very words I needed to hear.

This may sound a bit self-congratulatory.  But the more I thought about this experience, the more I wondered: what’s wrong with being self-congratulatory?  Maybe one of our problems is we don’t self-congratulate enough.  And more importantly, we don’t self-encourage.

It is a fact of life that there are going to be bad days.  Days we feel sad or scrambled or stressed or scared or all of these things at once.  Sometimes there is no one else around to help us sort through these feelings.  Sometimes the friends who do surround us do not know how to help.  Wouldn’t it be nice in these times of struggle if we had a source of encouragement that could speak hope into our lives even when no one else was around?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be our own source of encouragement?

Certainly, we have to be careful anytime we’re putting ourselves into the equation.  We are, after all, only human.  We may be wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), but we still make mistakes.  We make mistakes with others.  We make mistakes with ourselves.  We say incorrect things, we think incorrect thoughts, we seek comfort when what we really need is a good yelling.  If we try to encourage ourselves, chances are good we’ll probably screw it up.  But lucky for us, there is a safeguard in place.  Residing within us is the Spirit of God, who can help encourage our thoughts away from our woeful situations and replace them with thoughts of power and peace and perseverance.

David knew the importance of this type of self-encouragement.  When he was feeling down, he tried to buoy himself up by redirecting his attention back to the source of all encouragement.  “Why are you downcast within me, oh my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11). 

The first thing David did was recognize that he was feeling miserable.  But rather than dwell on this, he immediately redirected his attention back to God.  How many times when we are miserable do we do the exact opposite?  We like to dwell on the question.  We like to reply: “Let me tell you why I’m downcast!” Over and over again we allow our emotions to tell us how we feel.  We allow our minds to think about our feelings, and the reasons for our feelings, and the feelings of our feelings.  The more we think about how we feel, the more we feel, and the more we feel, the worse we feel, and the worse we feel the more we think, and the more we think the more we feel and…

But notice that David did not allow himself to do this.  “Why are you downcast?” David asked himself.  But it wasn’t posed as a ruminating question.  It was more of an accusation.  Followed by a command.  “Why are you downcast, oh my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God!”

“Put your hope in God!” David encouraged himself.  In other words, don’t ruminate on your feelings.  Don’t mull them over.  Don’t think about them.  Don’t try to figure them out.  Focus instead on God!

Ironic, isn’t it?  Self-encouragement is really not about encouraging the “self” at all.  In fact, self-encouragement is about encouraging ourselves away from ourselves… and closer to God.

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 42:11).

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