HOPE(06): the self talk of truth
I did some poking around and found that the average person processes between 25,000 and 75,000 thoughts per day. The vast majority of them are repetitious and we may not even be aware of them. The remainder is what we commonly refer to as self talk—the continuous conversation we have with ourselves in which we process our experience of life. In this mental chatter we evaluate ourselves and others and life itself. It is here that we rehearse what we believe and decide our actions. So how does this relate to hope?
Because hope is an attachment to the future, it needs cords of information that tie the present to what lies ahead. In the grip of our thoughts, the anticipation of the future can pull us through anything this life offers. But if I let go of that line—if I stop dwelling on what is true—hope vanishes like a dream. Telling myself the truth is what activates hope in the present.
I found one of the more dramatic expressions of this in a long, haunting poem written in response to a devastating event—the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Jeremiah was a eye witness of the event. The image in the prophet’s memory captures a wide range of the human experience: loss, pain, confusion, injustice, uncertainty. The cruel reality before him was overwhelming and begged for relief—something to grasp when all else seemed trivial and useless. He records for us the conversation within himself.
“I recall this to my mind, therefore I have hope … ‘the Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:21-24
The poet wrote, “This I recall.” When all the trinkets of hope had been removed, he brought back to mind what was most real. He chose what he would think about, what he would tell himself was true. There was no denial of life’s present experience, but something else was also true. One was unavoidable, the other was undeniable. “This I recall,” he wrote, “therefore I have hope.”
What I pick up from this is that my experience of hope is not automatic. It depends on what I am telling myself is true—the inner dialogue I have with myself—that unheard conversation continuously going on within me; sometimes in the background, sometimes as a conscious activity. I choose what I will tell myself is true.
So what is it that Jeremiah chooses to dwell upon? What is the greater reality that will occupy his thoughts? He tells us.
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!”
What is remarkable to me is that the prophet called these realities to his attention even when there was no tangible evidence of them. Life appeared to deny these claims. It would have been far easier to sing these lines in times of prosperity, when days were filled with laughter and promise. But there’s more.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I have hope in Him.”
As he speaks to himself within his soul, he clarifies that his hope is not in the outcome, but in the Person who determines the outcome. Jeremiah settles his mind with a reality larger than his experience. He concludes that he has hope “in Him.”
My daily experience of hope is dependent on me arriving at that same conclusion.