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BECOME A MEMBER TODAY! JULY'S VERSE: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” — Psalm 103:12

What Are You Saying to Yourself?

Ever Give Your Soul a Pep Talk?

by Natalie Abbott

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” — Psalm 103:12

Come on, Natalie. What’s your deal? “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). 

I was saying this to myself just this morning. It’s a verse I say on repeat when I feel down. And it’s something the psalmist said on repeat also as he preached truth and hope to himself in the midst of hard things (Psalm 42:5, 42:11, and 43:5). Like that psalmist, I have some hard things going on—disruptive, disturbing, difficult things. And this morning, I was feeling down and just a bit overwhelmed by all of it, so I did some soul-talking, reminding myself of the hope I have in God.

It was the very thing I needed to lift my spirits.

Yet, I must not have had quite enough soul-talking, because when I opened up my computer to work on this article, I found myself in another soul-talking psalm, Psalm 103, which opens with David addressing his soul. And I wondered, God, what are you telling me here? What does Psalm 103 teach me about talking to my soul? What does it tell me I should be saying? But before we answer that question, I want to ask you this one:

What Are You Saying to Your Soul?

What are you saying when you're feeling down or overwhelmed? What are you saying when you need to preach truth and hope to yourself? Ever give your soul a pep talk? While it may sound whacky, this is a totally normal occurrence in the Psalms. And the truth is, it’s a totally normal thing for us to talk to ourselves. We do it ALL THE TIME, often without even realizing we’re doing it. We are never not thinking, not saying something to ourselves. But let me ask you again: What are you saying to your soul? I hope that by the end of this article, you’ll hear enough soul-anchoring truth that you’ll be convinced of the importance of speaking God’s truth to yourself. (It’s so important, we wrote a book about it—Dwell Differently: Overcome Negative Thinking with the Simple Practice of Memorizing God’s Truth. And here’s a fun bonus: I wrote a whole chapter on Psalm 42:5!)

What to Say to Your Soul

In Psalm 103, David models two things we should preach to our souls: to praise the Lord and to recall all the reasons he deserves our praise. He begins by saying, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—” (Psalm 103:1–2). Do you see the pattern? He tells his soul to praise the Lord and to remember all the benefits he has in him. And for the rest of the psalm, that’s precisely what David does—he identifies all the ways God is good and then he ends his psalm like he began it, calling for God’s praise. Let’s look first at some of David’s reasons for praising God, then we'll see how his soul overflows with praise. 

Tell Your Soul, “God Is Good.” 

This is the truth we know, isn’t it? That God is good. And yet we tend to forget it. We need to regularly and specifically remind our hearts that God is praiseworthy. Throughout the psalm, this is what David does, reminding his soul of all God’s benefits—personally, corporately, and intrinsically. 

David has so many good reasons to praise God personally. God has forgiven him and redeemed his life from the pit. Instead of giving David what he deserves for his sins, God has crowned him with his endless love and mercy and satisfied him with good things. How could his soul not rejoice? 

But God’s good benefits aren’t just for him. They are for all of God’s people! David recounts how God has graciously revealed himself and his mighty works to all of his followers for all time. But here’s the best part: his goodness (both personally and corporately) finds its foundation in God himself.

God is intrinsically good in every way. David tells of God’s mercy, compassion, forbearance, and steadfast love toward all who follow him. Because this is who God is, this is how he acts toward his people. He says in verses 11 and 12, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Did you hear that? This is the very thing we need to be telling our souls isn’t it?! That God’s love is boundless and his forgiveness is complete for every single one of us who “fear him” or follow him in reverence (for more explanation of the fear of God, be sure to listen to this Wednesday’s Dwell Differently podcast episode). 

What Forgiveness Looks Like

Before we jump ahead to our next point, as a constant repeat offender of God, I just want to linger here and consider God’s radical, loving forgiveness. Don’t we all just need to hear that he removes our sins totally and completely? I, for one, need to be reminded that I cannot wear out the infinite forgiveness of God. And that the same God who knows all things willfully forgets my sins, because he paid for them at his own great cost. And though my mountain of sin is mammoth, God is powerful to hurl it all into the dark oblivion where shame and regret cannot reach me anymore. Surely, “he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).  And this should be a cause for celebration! 

Tell Your Soul, “Praise God!”  

Because of who God is and because of what he has done, we have every reason to praise him! And while David starts his psalm by instructing his own soul to praise God, after enumerating all of God’s goodness, he cannot help but end his psalm by calling everyone everywhere to do the same. Hear what he says:

Praise the LORD, you his angels,
           you mighty ones who do his bidding, 
           who obey his word.
Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
           you his servants who do his will.
Praise the LORD, all his works
           everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, my soul. (Psalm 103:20–22)

I love how David ends this psalm repeating the same words he started with. He mounts the heights of heaven calling the angels to praise. He shouts for the whole earth and all that is in it to praise God. And yet he ends back at the smallest place, his own soul, the only thing he can control, and the place that matters most to him. I couldn’t tell you where his soul was when he started out, but I think we can have a good idea of where it is now. He’s not just commanding his soul to praise God, but he is leading the song of all God’s creatures! The result of recounting God’s goodness should always lead our hearts to praise.

So this is your calling (and mine), this month and always: Remind your soul of all God’s benefits (including the forgiveness we see in our memory verse), so that you might praise him—in the good things and the hard things and in everything in between (I’m preaching to myself here). Then all those things will fall into proper perspective, as God himself and his praise take their rightful place at the center of our hearts.

Natalie Abbott

Natalie Abbott is the co-founder and chief content officer of Dwell Differently, and the co-author of Dwell Differently: Overcome Negative Thoughts with the Simple Practice of Memorizing God's Truth. She lives in Missouri with her husband and 5 kids.

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