4-5 Self Talk

So what can all this mean in practice? We all talk to ourselves. There’s a steady stream of self-talk going on within us, whether or not we quietly mouth the words to ourselves at times. Some people have a stream of self-talk going on that denigrates their self-worth day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Others have thoughts of anger and bad imaginations against the evil which they imagine others are doing. Yet others have thoughts of utter vanity, of grandeur, of lust, of various fantasies...and these all influence our words, actions and ambitions in the very end. Prov. 6:22 speaks about self-talk. If God’s word abides within us, “When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee”. Time and again, God condemns people for walking “in the imagination of their evil heart” (e.g. Jer. 11:8), i.e. living their lives in accordance with their evil self talk, inevitably doing the essence of what they had vainly fantasized about.

So many of the Psalms are in fact David’s self-talk, his soliloquies, which merge artlessly and naturally into prayer to God- hence the change of pronouns so often. One moment, he’s speaking to himself; the next, to God. Thus he reflects: “My help comes from the Lord”; and next verse, he goes on to address himself: “He will not suffer your foot to be moved; he that keeps you will not slumber” (Ps. 121:2,3). There's a Hebrew word, siyakh, which means to commune with oneself; it's a clear reference to what I'm calling 'self-talk'. David speaks of how he 'muses', or talks to himself, about the wonder of God's natural creation (Ps. 143:5) and His past acts in the history of Israel. We have to ask ourselves whether, for all our familiarity with the Biblical text, these things are actually part of our self-talk? The word occurs in Ps. 55:17, where it's translated 'pray'. This self-talk is perhaps the very essence of prayer; this speaking to ourselves is in fact a speaking to God. That's how we can live the life of continual prayer which busy men like David and Paul claim to have lived. David especially speaks of how he communes with his own heart at night (Ps. 77:6; 119:148 s.w.)- this in particular is the time for self-talk. And hence Prov. 6:22 uses the same word to describe how when we awake, our self-talk will again be of God's word. When others bad mouthed him, David could say that he spoke to himself about God's word and works (Ps. 119:23).

When David danced “before / in the eyes of the Lord”, his wife mocked him, because he had embarrassed himself “before / in the eyes of Israel”. David’s response is that he had done this “in my own eyes” (2 Sam. 6:20-22). This play on the phrase “before / in the eyes of” is significant. David is highly perceptive here. He’s saying that if this is how he feels in his own eyes, then this is how he is before the eyes of God, and therefore this is how he will be before the eyes of Israel and the general public. David is saying: ‘Who I am, my real self, is the one God sees, and I’m not going to hide it from the world; let them see me how I see myself and how God sees me’. In this incident, there was no gap between the ‘real self’ of David and the image he projected to the world. There was complete congruence between how he felt about himself, how God saw him, and how the watching world saw him. And this incident ought to be programmatic for our entire lives.

From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. So “guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23). This is why we are told to speak the truth in our hearts. David definitely has in mind our self-talk. Our self-talk has a high likelihood of being untrue, fantasy, imagination. Be aware, keenly aware, of the private conversations you’re having with yourself. Ensure that all you are saying to yourself, even if it’s not about spiritual things, is at least truthful. This is where this great theme of truth starts and ends. Ideally, our self-talk should be of Jesus, of the Father, of the things of His Kingdom. Of anything that is just, true, of good report... Yet our self-talk is closely linked to what Scripture would call the devil- the constant fountain of wrong suggestions and unspiritual perspectives that seem to bubble up so constantly within us. The devil- the Biblical one- is “the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44). And untruthfulness seems to begin within our own self-talk. I would even go so far as to almost define the devil as our own self-talk. And it’s likened to a roaring, dangerous lion; a cunning snake. And it’s there within each of us. The control of self-talk is vital. And the Biblical guidance is to make sure it is truthful; for lack of truthfulness is the root of all sin. The account of the wilderness temptations is in my opinion a wonderful window into the self-talk of the Lord Jesus. He set the example there, of dealing with internal temptation by a self-talk based solidly on the truth of God's word. Sin is normally committed by believers not as an act of conscious rebellion, but rather through a complex process of self-justification; which on repentance we recognize was the mere sophistry of our own self-talk. This is why truthfulness is the epitome of the spiritual life. To deny ever being untruthful is to deny ever sinning. We all have this problem. It’s why the assertion of Jesus that He was “the truth” was tantamount to saying that He was sinless. Only thus is He thereby the way to eternal life.

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