Four Spiritual Habits from the Psalms
When times become difficult or chaotic, it’s easy to lose focus.
Like the disciples tossed to and fro by waves in the middle of the sea (Matthew 14:24), we often fear disaster. We quickly question the trajectory of the ship, forget to row, cry out in fear instead of faith, and fail to look to the one who can calm the sea.
Storms can consume us, distracting us from the state of our hearts, the gaze of our eyes, the words of our mouths, and the actions we should be taking. Before we know it, we are likely in serious need of a spiritual detox — a cleansing, recalibrating, invigorating soul-treatment.
Four Soul-Detoxes in the Psalms
To detox my soul, I love to read through the Psalms. They’re raw, relatable, beautiful, and deeply convicting. There are so many truths to meditate on, prayers to borrow, promises to declare, words to memorize — it can be just the place to begin a detox of four key areas of my spiritual life.
1. Detox Your Heart
“A spiritual detox enables us to more clearly hear the Spirit’s voice and see our Savior’s face.”
My heart is always the first thing in desperate need of a detox. I have learned that we can’t effectively fight the Lord’s battles in the world while neglecting the one in our hearts. Countless times I’ve tried to advance in haste or self-righteousness, not realizing until later that it’s my own heart that I’m fighting. I must go to my knees to stop, repent, and reset. When times are tumultuous and emotions high, we must be particularly vigilant about sin creeping in.
As the psalmist pours out his soul, I’m encouraged to do the same as I search my heart before the Lord.
“Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind” (Psalm 26:2).
Ask the Lord to examine, prove, and try your heart and mind, as if testing metal to determine value and genuineness. We are prone to be partial to ourselves, making allowances where we should not.
“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” (Psalm 19:12–13).
Our greatest temptations come not from without, but from within. Our heart’s secret sins give birth to almost every evil deed and gradually enslave us. Sin disguises itself: pride can be seen as conviction, self-sufficiency as industriousness, fear as attentiveness, scepticism as discernment, timidity as humility, and the list can go on and on.
“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11).
Ask that the Lord teach us to live and act in accordance to his truth, pursuing his will. We need him to join all the purposes, resolutions, and affections of our hearts into a singular purpose to worship, obey, and honor him. Every day, every hour. If our hearts are divided, all will be wrong.
2. Detox Your Eyes
Amidst the million things we could look to, the psalmist reminds us where to set our gaze. Like a compass in need of recalibration, we will inevitably wander if our eyes are set on the wrong things.
“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (Psalm 119:37).
Our view of what is real and true and life-giving is so easily blocked. Our prayer should be that of the nineteenth-century theologian Albert Barnes, “Make my eyes pass rapidly from such objects, that I may not look at them, may not contemplate them, may not dwell upon them.”
“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
May we act and regard ourselves as always in the Lord’s presence, for what is continually before our eyes is what shapes us. If our gaze is locked upon the Lord in the struggle, pain, and change, we will be anchored and not disturbed by fear.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
In the words of Augustine, “Lord, show me the road I must travel so that I may see you.” God’s path alone leads to life, and his hand provides not just pleasure, but eternal pleasure. And not merely joy, but full joy.
3. Detox Your Words
“We cannot effectively fight the Lord’s battles in the world while neglecting the ones in our hearts.”
The psalmists knew the power of words. They used them to create beautiful poems of praise, to pierce the soul, and paint glorious pictures of God’s character. Words have the power to build or break, to decimate or create — choose them with wisdom. They flow out of our hearts, so if they are a continual struggle, we should take the time to examine our core.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
May our lips always speak in ways that draw others to our rock and redeemer. Meditate on the Lord, the fountain and origin of good things, so words pleasing him might overflow from your mouth. These words carry power and eternal impact when offered in his strength, rather than our own efforts.
“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalms 78:4).
Let us be a generation faithful in speaking the truths we’ve been entrusted with, handing them off to the future generations. Not hiding these truths in fear or corrupting them to fulfill our own agendas, but speaking them for his glory, purposes, and praise. May his great works ever be on our lips!
“I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Psalms 16:2).
God is our good — all of it. And we can’t add to his goodness in any way. Through the gospel, the entirety of our sin and death can be exchanged for the entirety of his goodness and life, and our redeemed souls can rest in him for eternity. He is our portion, our hope, and our stay.
4. Detox Your Actions
When the world is weighing heavily on my soul, my first instinct is usually to retreat. I pull away from the heaviness and stop rowing — forgetting that God’s way may not be ending the storm, but giving me the strength to row in my weariness. If he is our rock and our strength, we needn’t be paralyzed.
The truth about his love should lead us to action. Not that we must never rest, but contrary to the world’s ceaseless message of self-focus and self-care, we are told to give up our own battles, rest in Christ, and use his strength to fight for and serve others, so that they can enjoy the rest and peace we’ve been given. When we purge ourselves of pride and sin, our actions have the potential to bring great hope and healing.
“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).
Act intentionally to shun the evil that is near, while searching out the good to be done. Our deeds will have eternal impact when directed by God’s word, in love for God’s glory, and in the strength and grace of Christ. Initiate the pursuit of peace, for we know its source.
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute” (Psalm 82:3).
Over and over throughout the Psalms, we are commanded to be the natural protectors under God of the weak, the poor, and the oppressed. Since they often have no one to defend them, we are to see that right is done for those who need an advocate.
“God is our portion, our hope, and our stay.”
“Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me” (Psalm 119:133).
May not just our life, but our daily life — not just our paths, but each of our steps — be habitually obedient to God’s will. For this is how we brightly reflect God’s glory, even in the small, seemingly mundane spaces through which we are led. The Lord must order our steps, clearing the sinful brambles that impede our way, for we have no hope of properly arranging them apart from him.
Spiritual Detox Leads to Life
While our flesh will never fully stop warring against our redeemed souls in this broken world, the more we live as one’s aware of this tension, the more we can be used in life-giving ways. Not because less sin means we’re loved more, are better than others, or are more deserving of God’s grace, but because death to sin always leads to life and freedom.
A spiritual detox, though potentially difficult at the time, enables us to more clearly hear the Spirit’s voice and see our Savior’s face. Whether in the loud storms, the drenching rains, or the contrary winds, we are able to press on for the prize with excitement in our hearts — pursuing things unseen as we walk in the steps of our Lord.