Your testimonies are righteous forever; Give me understanding that I may live. Psalm 119:144
When are the Psalms normally read? When I’m hurting. Whether sickness, betrayal, danger, or the pain of being falsely accused, I can be sure that there will be a Psalm that correlates. But if a Psalm is read only to gain comfort and validation, I am missing out on a goldmine of instruction.
Let me speak more personally. The honesty of the Psalms can scare me. I have historically been afraid of extreme complaint. I’m shy of being called a drama queen if I join David in exclaiming that ‘my tears have been my food day and night’, even if it’s been true. Many of us have been raised in environments that frown on this kind of emotion. We’ve been told that we are spiritually unstable if we moan, if we ache, when the effects of the fall touch our personal lives. But I would do well to read the Psalms out loud when I’m in distress to train myself to speak with gut honesty to God. The Psalms show me how to well order the expressions of grief, anger, and hopelessness.
But that’s only the beginning of the value I’ll gain by living in the Psalms. They will not only encourage me to own my feelings but they will also instruct me on how to think in the midst of them. How should my faith be expressed when I’m in pain? What kinds of things should I praise God for when I need to worship yet don’t feel like it? As someone who was raised in a stoic home, my praise is often stilted. To abandon myself to worship is often a stretch. What kind of catalyst does it take for me to be able to genuinely pour out praise without any restraint? When I experience divine deliverance and life-saving revelation! I have lived long enough to fall on my knees, literally, in gratitude for God’s answers to desperate prayers. I have praised God profusely for speaking to me after years of deafening silence. I have exclaimed with tears, “I know now that You are mighty. You are a deliverer. You have been with me all along.”
The Psalms challenge me to be balanced. If I lean toward reading them for intellectual enjoyment, they will challenge me to also have a heart response. If I lean toward a cathartic release of my heart, they will challenge me to espouse theology and to risk faith beyond my tears. Ever balanced, they instruct me on how to think, and how to feel, like Jesus.
And so the journey begins Lord. Make me balanced. Shape my thoughts and free my heart to beat like Yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen