Saturday, January 5, 2013

Admonishing Our Souls

Do you ever have to remind yourself to calm down in a stressful situation? Have you spoken out loud to help your heart listen to the truth? Do you ever call a close friend to process something you are going through?

I will admit that I have done all of these things. I have to speak out loud to myself sometimes to  remember that I am not the only person stressed or angry about a problem. I have to tell myself not to believe the lies that I am defined by my intellect or looks. In fact, I must tell myself large doses of truth: that I am defined by being made in God's image, I am defined by God Himself.

In the Psalms, the sons of Korah admonished their souls as well. They exhorted themselves with the truth that God was still their salvation, even when they were depressed.
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God. 
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.

When shall I come and appear before God? 
My tears have been my food day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?” 

These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival. 

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.
(Psalm 42.1-5)

Many persons look at verse one and think that the sons of Korah are so in love with God that they cannot get enough of Him. Yet the next two verses clearly show they are longing for God because they are sorrowful, depressed, and no longer have the gladness that caused them to lead others to worship God. They state the problem explicitly. 

Yet the sons of Korah do not wallow in their depression. Nor do they act happy-go-lucky, as if they have no grief or turmoil.  They do something far better than either of these common pitfalls: they reminds their souls of truth. These descendants of Korah admonish their minds, wills, and emotions, asking themselves why they are downcast. Then they speak hope to themselves: do not worry, we will yet again praise God. It might not be today, but a time is coming when we will praise God, Who is our salvation. 

There are days when we must admonish our own souls to praise God. There are times when we have to remind ourselves to bless God. To bless God means "to consecrate, make holy, give thanks, to speak well of, to praise, to bend the knee, to worship, to invoke blessings". Some days we must tell ourselves "Bless the LORD O my soul!", as David did later in the Psalms:
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless His holy name! 

 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits,
Who forgives all your iniquity,
Who heals all your diseases, 

Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 
Who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
(Psalm 103.1-3)

Recently, three dear friends of mine all had a grandparent die (two had funerals Christmas week). When I was home for Christmas, I saw how much my own grandma's memory is beginning to fail. She is my last living grandparent, and realising that she may not be able to live on her own much longer (she is 93, and quite active) has been hard. Knowing that life is fragile has been weighing on my heart. Seeing the state of our economy, presidential administration, and the lack of logic or understanding in the general public has depressed my soul. I am tempted to fret, to despair, to  see only loss. 

At these precise moments I must remember the kindness of the LORD, His benefits, that He has filled my soul with good things, how He has redeemed me, that He gives me Love and mercy, how He is my strength in weakness. I must speak truth to my soul, and I must admonish myself to bless God. He alone is worthy of all praise and glory, forever and ever. Amen.


  1. This was a great read! Are "intellect or looks" the main way that you're tempted in measuring yourself? Also, in what ways do you tend to measure others?

  2. Thanks, Andrew. Hm, I would say intellect and personality are the ways I measure myself the most. Sometimes I wonder 'Am I smart enough to do x, y, z?' Or I rely on my personality for acceptance and worth. They are sort of like security blankets in life.

    I tend to measure others most by intellect (conversation topics, grammar, higher pursuits - like reading, the arts - etc.) I also try to measure a person by their character and wisdom.

    All too often I find myself writing someone off because we have varying tastes or views, which really does not help me to get to know a person for who they are.

    How about you? Where do you find yourself measuring yourself or others against something other than God's definition of humanity?
    ~ J

  3. Hmm, for me I think I primarily measure myself by 1. courage 2. care. and 3. skill in perception. To a degree, that's how I measure other people as well, (at least, my fellow fellows) though in the spirit of charity, I do generally try to convince myself (sometimes unsuccessfully) to esteem people according to areas of strength rather than weakness (esteeming a markedly unperceptive person by a strength in kindness rather than perception, for example).

  4. Alas, another comment I have not responded to - my apologies.

    I think we naturally measure ourselves by our strengths, for indeed your list above applies to you very well.

    It is both wise and difficult to practise measuring others by their strengths rather than their deficiencies. However, when we dwell on a person's good qualities and build them up in that area, it can help them improve in other ways (either in our minds - because we are open to seeing more good - or in the person themselves). It certainly gives us more room to love and appreciate them.

    Your use of the word esteem made me think of the verse that admonishes us to esteem others as better than ourselves. Good choice.

    ~ J