if you’re stuck in a well

Last week, the pastor preached on Ephesians 2 because we’re about to start a series in Matthew. The passage is one I know well and one my heart returns to often because it’s covered in grace.

For by grace I have been saved… grace is both the route of my salvation and the vehicle. And I’m overwhelmed by the ride. So, when we turned to Ephesians for the Scripture reading, my heart knew the way around the words.

But something about the way he introduced the sermon felt different and along the way he used an unfamiliar analogy that I’m still thinking about six days later. He said, “When you are stuck in the bottom of a well, you can have all the positive thinking in the world but you will still be stuck in the bottom of a well. You can say all the right things and even recite words of Scripture over yourself if you think that will help, but the words have no power if only you speak them.”

Here’s the nitty-gritty: If I’m stuck in the bottom of a well, my words are powerless to get me out. I can speak true words, false words, fake words, or frail words. It doesn’t matter what kinds of words I throw at my prison, they will all bounce off like the dark death of a deep well.

Words are powerful.

I believe we all have a conversation happening inside us – something the soul speaks to the heart and vice versa. There is a conversation happening and sometimes it is true and encouraging and edifying and sometimes it is the opposite. Words are powerful.

But words are only powerful to save when spoken by a certain One voice. I can repeat the words, but they are only powerful because God first spoke them over me. Scripture is not powerful because I memorize it or speak it aloud or love it or lean into it.

Scripture is powerful because God is faithful and the promises it spells out are blood bought.

God spoke over me when I was lost in a hopelessly deep, dark well. He spoke true words about breathing life into dead bones and then I came alive. And He speaks true words into my lungs every day to keep my dead bones breathing. No one else has that power.

No amount of counseling or advising or encouraging or tolerating can have the kind of power that His words possess. I can tell a friend a thousand times that she is freed from fear, but my words have no power. I can tell a brother he is freed from anxiety, but my words will always fall short.

As we read through Ephesians 2 last week, I thought about God authoring those words to His children who sat helplessly in the deep wells they’d dug for themselves. I thought about hearing those words of grace spoken over me by the only One whose words could change my reality – the only One whose words have the power to lift my feet to freedom.

Amazing grace.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV)

preach it [to yourself]

We hear a lot of words throughout the day – our morning to midnight is filled with them. Words to wake up to, to sing to, to argue with, to persuade, entice, battle, and play.

So many words.

But even if you didn’t have a single conversation, your day would still be full of words. Even if you were a hermit, words would wiggle inside. Because we’re all listening to sermons in our heads – words that motivate and teach and correct and guide.

My soul is speaking constantly and sometimes it sounds like a worldly sermon. It sounds like more questions than statements, more fear than courage, and more pride than humility. Sometimes it sounds like sin. But it is not a matter of making my soul mute, because that’s not possible. We are created with eternity in our hearts and my soul’s constant conversation is evidence of that. 

In conversations with friends and in reflection about my own inner conversations lately, I’m reminded again that if the message coming from our souls is not Truth, we need to find a different preacher (and I don’t mean at church).

A few years back, I read The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk by Shelly Beach and (in addition to the title’s brilliant alliteration) it brought a new awareness of the words my soul speaks constantly to my heart. More recently, after reading Joe Thorn’s book Note to Self (heavily influenced and inspired by Martin Lloyd Jones) I became even more intentional about using Scripture to guide those conversations.

My scripture memory verse this week is speaking the right words to my soul. I love reading the statement, “Hope in God” right after the psalmist has just probed for answers for his depression. That statement, “Hope in God” is an affirmation of who God is, a declaration of His worthiness, and a pronouncement of His grace to give such hope. I love that.

Psalm 42:11, “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.”

This morning, I had an interview for a job in NYC and before/during/afterward my soul heard those words: Hope in God. Though I don’t have a downcast soul right now, I do often ask my soul about worry and fear and worth. And to these questions this morning, I preached: Hope in God.

He is trustworthy.
He is good.
He is faithful.

And I am satisfied in Him. I shall again praise Him – with or without a job. He is my hope!