I first heard of the concept of preaching to yourself when I was in college, from Dr. Jim Berg, I think it was. I have since found out that the phrase comes from D. Martyn Lloyd Jones’s book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure and it has become something of a buzzword in evangelical circles. But what does it mean to preach to yourself?
Here’s how Dr. Lloyd-Jones explained it:
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.
Somebody is talking. Who is talking? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’ . . . .
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’– what business have you to be disquieted?’
You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’– instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.
Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’” (20-21).
I thought of this section of the book today because I had to spend the majority of my day preaching to myself. For some reason, I was overwhelmed with wave after wave of despair, depression, guilt, discouragement, sadness–you name the negative emotion and I felt it today! I was at work, where I couldn’t read God’s Word and take comfort in solitary prayer , reading and meditation, so as Dr. Lloyd-Jones said to do, I sternly spoke to myself with each wave of negativity and said : “Hope thou in God!” I wish I could say that after the first occurrence of this today, I had a glorious and uplifting day, but really it was full of struggling spiritually and fighting for joy and reminding myself of the gospel and preaching truth about God to myself. I know that I would have wallowed in despair and would have been completely defeated, if I had not done this, so even though the battle was hard, I felt like God’s Word overcame my sin and the weird swings in emotions I felt today.