December 17, 2017

Revitalizing Personal Worship

Through Quieting the Noisy Soul

Jim Berg

Shawna can’t seem to “click off” at nights, and her mind races nonstop replaying the events of the day. Fran was released from another job because of low productivity. She obsesses about cleanliness and orderliness to such a degree that she can never finish a job.

Bob just received his second job warning. He was late to work again. He sleeps fitfully and feels paralyzed as he awakens and considers the day’s responsibilities. His despair seems to sit on his chest, making it feel impossible to get out of bed.

These believers carry heavy burdens—failed relationships, health problems, shattered dreams, and spiritual doubt. Together these matters make for very noisy souls. How can we help them, and how can we avoid the same battle? To begin, let’s stop and listen to the noise.

Noticing the Noise in Your Soul

Noise in the physical realm consists of waves created by a disturbance of some kind. We see it in the concentric circles made by a pebble thrown into a quiet pond. Noise in the soul consists of thoughts—responses to our circumstances on a fallen planet.

  • Sounds of fear—thoughts of worry, vulnerability, uncertainty
  • Sounds of despair—thoughts of hopelessness, defeat, self-pity
  • Sounds of anger—thoughts of hurt, demands, thwarted goals
  • Sounds of bitterness—thoughts of injustice, contempt, revenge
  • Sounds of lust—thoughts of indulgence, covetousness, ambition
  • Sounds of guilt—thoughts of sinfulness, remorse, embarrassment
  • Sounds of obsessions—thoughts of habits, selfimposed demands, cover-ups
  • Sounds of entertainment—thoughts of movies, music, sports, video games, adventures

God’s Noise Abatement Plan

The collective noise is deafening! How different is the Master’s desire for us. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke [of discipleship] upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy [custom-made], and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30). Quieting the noise in our souls is linked to our willingness to learn certain things from and about the Lord Jesus.

Our pride is the godfather of noisemakers. Pride whines, pouts, demands, argues, debates, covets, retaliates, shifts blame, indulges, manipulates, schemes, obsesses, and frets. Pride cries out, “I will not . . .,” “I must have . . .,” “I don’t have to . . .,” “I won’t let . . .,” “I can’t take any more of . . .,” and “I don’t like. . . .”

In utter contrast to this is the life of the Lord Jesus, whose mission was not about Himself. He clearly said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). We must learn this kind of dependence and humility to quiet our noisy souls, but our pride walks hand in hand with another enemy—unbelief.

The Danger of Unbelief

We might not immediately link our noisy souls to unbelief. To understand the connection, let’s define some important terms.

Truth—Truth is that which corresponds to reality.

Most of us stopped believing in Santa Claus when we learned that the whole story was just a fairy tale. There is nothing in reality that corresponds to the events of a large man in a red coat sliding down every chimney on Christmas Eve with a large bag of toys, and reindeer do not fly. We do know, however, that Jesus was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, that His birth was announced by angels to shepherds, and that He is the Son of God. This story is true because the components of the account correspond to reality. These events happened!

Belief—A belief is what you accept to be true.

Believing in Santa Claus does not make the story about him true. We can believe something that is not true. It has little effect when we are children, but a grown person still leaving cookies and milk under the tree and writing letters to the North Pole would raise some eyebrows.

Unbelief—Unbelief is rejecting what God says is true.

We tend to think of an unbeliever merely as one who rejects the message of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. However, anytime we know something to be true about God, we are living in unbelief if we reject that reality. Consider these truths about God—these statements of reality.

1. God is always good—always! That means . . .

a. He will always meet my genuine needs—always!

• Philippians 4:13, 19; Matthew 6:31–33

b. He will always forgive my sin—always!

• 1 John 1:9; Psalm 51; Isaiah 66:2b

c. He is always up to something good in my life— always!

• Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:26–34

d. He will always love me personally—always!

• Romans 8:35–39; Jeremiah 31:3; John 17:23

e. He will always give me the grace I need— always!

• 2 Corinthians 9:8; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10

2. God is always great—always! That means . . .

a. He is always in control of all things—always!

• Psalm 103:19; Isaiah 14:27; 46:9, 10

b. He is always present with me—always!

• Psalm 139:7–12; Isaiah 41:10; Jeremiah 23:24

c. He is always the same—always!

• Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:10–12

d. He is always trustworthy—always!

• 2 Timothy 2:13; Psalm 36:5; Numbers 23:19; Deuteronomy 7:9; 31:8

e. He is always wise in what He does—always!

• Romans 11:33; Colossians 2:3; Revelation 15:3, 4

To reject any of these statements is unbelief. For example, it is easy when facing a difficult or devastating circumstance to believe—accept to be true—that God must not love us. Believing the idea that God does not love us is on the same plane as believing that Santa Claus delivers our presents at Christmas. Both of them are fantasies because they do not correspond to reality.

The reality is that a world where God does not love His children does not exist. Neither can He be loving toward us at some times and not at other times. God always loves us—always! To reject that truth is unbelief, which starts us on the path of our own disintegration—the way down.

The Way Down

When we accept as truth the idea that God has not provided what we need today and God Himself is not enough for us today, we have believed a lie and are walking in unbelief. That unbelief shows up first in discontent—”if only” thinking.

“If only my spouse would appreciate me more.”

“If only I had more money.”

“If only I had better health.”

“If only I hadn’t been abused.”

“If only I had grown up with different parents.”

“If only I were married to someone who loves me.”

Discontent is dangerous because the lust for more is the basis of every temptation in the heart—including the temptations to worry, to be angry, and to despair.

From Unbelief and Discontent to Anxiety

Once we have decided in our unbelief that we do not have what we need for peace and joy, we are easily tempted to worry. Worriers meditate upon all the possibilities of what might happen and scare themselves with their imaginations and fantasies. Worry is the root cause of the “anxiety disorders” of today—the panic attacks, obsessive thinking, compulsive behavior, many sleep disorders, and the self-injury we see in the form of anorexia, bulimia, and cutting.

The “if only” thinking of discontent leads to the “what if” thinking of worry.

“What if my husband is into pornography?”

“What if I get up to sing and I forget the words?”

“What if I have another panic attack, but this time while I’m driving?”

“What if I can’t sleep again tonight?”

“What if someone breaks into the house and kills all of us?”

Anxiety is driven by unbelief and the resulting discontent. This is why anxiety is always portrayed in the Bible as a spiritual problem. We will not be anxious if we know God well and are content with what He has provided because we have found Him to be more than enough for us.

From Unbelief and Discontent to Anger

Anger is the strong emotion of displeasure that is fueled by frustration, hurt, or fear. This, too, is the result of believing that something must be different in my life if I am to be content and at rest. We will not be angry if we know God well and are content with what He has provided because we have found Him to be more than enough for us.

From Unbelief and Discontent to Despair

Despair is sorrow over loss coupled with hopelessness. When God’s true nature is not in the picture, our thoughts of hopelessness only multiply, and when that hopelessness is laced with self-pity, the condition is even more toxic.

Feeling down is not sinful and can be caused by bodily conditions, but thinking hopeless thoughts is entirely a matter of the heart and is an indication of spiritual needs. We will not despair—even when our bodies are suffering— if we know God well and are content with what He has provided, because we have found Him to be more than enough for us.

The Way Back

Liz was fighting battles on many fronts. She was dangerously overweight, her marriage was in trouble, she could not sleep, her work situation was disintegrating, and she had alienated her adult children by her controlling ways. She testifies, “I did not see that my discontent was actually unbelief in the God who loves me. God broke my heart and showed me my sinfulness. The God I knew was heavy-handed and was ready to pounce on me at any time. The God I am beginning to know loves me, is kind to me, and continually shows me new things.

“Sorrow never drove me to Him before—only to despair. Frustration only grew deeper. I felt unstable most of the time, and I worried constantly. I lived a life of ‘what ifs.’

“God has changed my disposition toward the ones I work with—toward the people who hurt me. Even Christmas is different for me this year. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted this year—really. The only things I could think of were books or taped messages or something to help me grow. I have come to learn that ‘God is more than enough for me.’”

Noisy Souls Need a Savior, Structure, and Saturation

Liz knew she needed a Savior to deliver her from eternal judgment, but she had never realized she needed a Savior to deliver her from her pride and unbelief. God allowed her mediocre Christianity to unravel until she was desperate enough to see her need of Him again.

“The way back” started with a brokenness over her self-reliance. She sought and received forgiveness from the Lord she had given only lip-service to before. She committed herself to pursuing the knowledge of God, realizing that to become godly she needed discipline (1 Tim. 4:7).

Liz started a systematic guided study of who God is and worked on exercises that taught her to look at the destructive patterns of her thinking. She learned to track her thinking, not her feelings. She learned to see the selfcenteredness underlying her impatience, critical spirit, angry outbursts, and nagging.

Through His Word, God confronted and changed Liz’s view of Himself. She saw with illuminated understanding that God was loving, merciful, wise, powerful, and continually present with her. The day-by-day saturation of the Word along with the penetrating questions of her study materials taught her to examine her thoughts—her beliefs—not just respond to her feelings.

The Master’s Promise

Christ promised that those who would come to Him to learn from Him would, indeed, find rest for their noisy souls. His words aren’t mere hype. They are statements of reality to those who will seek a Savior and saturate their minds with the knowledge of who He is and what He has done.


Jim Berg is the former Dean of Students at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.

This article was adapted from the Quieting a Noisy Soul interactive personal growth program published by BJU Press, 2005 (www. QuietingANoisySoul.com).

(Originally published in FrontLine • November / December 2005. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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