Updated: Feb 11
Recently, I found myself camped out in a particular psalm over a few mornings during my quiet time. I just love the book of Psalms. If you were to look at my present Bible, which has been my primary study Bible since March 2016, I'm pretty sure that you would find just about every psalm of the 150 total with either some markings, dates, or writing alongside the margins. Some with all three. With each of the Bibles I've used throughout the past thirty-six years of my adult life, this would be the case.
The markings and notes or the repetitive times I've meditated on a particular psalm, indicated by sometimes multiple dates recorded, don’t reveal that I’m an Old Testament scholar, or keen student of ancient hymns and prayers, or some super Christian—no, I'm nothing of the sort—but just that I came to an experiential understanding very early in my life that I’m so very desperate for God, in every desperate-feeling, desperate-looking reality I encounter. Actually, so very desperate and so very needy each and every day, even when my life circumstances are fairing well.
Our time on this fallen, groaning planet is hard. So unpredictable. So uncertain. The Psalms, in powerful, poetic language, speak right into the raw realities that life consists of: Joy is overtaken by sorrow. A companion turns into an enemy. Godly pursuits are hindered by sin. Success shifts to failure. Acceptance is replaced by rejection. Clarity becomes clouded by confusion. Hope battles with despair. Faith gives in to fear. Worship wanes to welcome woe.
So often, what we thought should happen. . .was supposed to happen. . .even prayed fervently would happen, just doesn't.
And what I so appreciate about the book of Psalms is that the psalmists talk honestly and openly to their loving Creator about it all.
Throughout my Christian journey, I’ve had so many days, and even long seasons, when the honest, heartfelt words of a specific psalm—maybe a verse or a section, or the psalm in its entirety—spoke right into my hard situation, articulating exactly how I was feeling.
But what I truly love most about the Psalms, more than the raw, blunt emotions they authentically convey, is the fact they continually direct my attention away from the heavy toward the heavenly. And the heavenly is what I need to be focused on, no matter what life consists of in the moment, but never more so than when I'm in such an earthly mindset that the truth in a psalm is exactly what I need to deeply absorb.
How thankful I am that God chose to include the book of Psalms in the Bible—the collection of God-breathed, inerrant words that are our heralds of hope and our lifeline, as we journey within this temporary, broken world.
Fellow sojourner, I have no way of knowing what you're specifically facing this day or season in your life, or how you're specifically faring and feeling; yet, if you're a redeemed child of God, these truths I do undoubtedly know:
Your Father is right there and has never left your side.
His Son understands—fully understands like no other—all that you're going through, all that you're feeling.
His Spirit resides within, ready to help.
If you need a beautifully written reminder of these comforting realities, in the midst of your very hard, yes, even ugly, realities—your very real days of hardship, suffering and discouragement—don't give in to how you're feeling. Pick up God's Word, turn to the book of Psalms, and allow God's presence and perspective to wash over you.
And, most importantly, because the Psalms always compel us to worship, just let your heavy heart go—let yourself go!—and begin to worship in the midst of your pain, in the midst of your tears.
This, I believe, is the greatest value of this great Bible book.
Truly, the Psalms lead us to lift high, to elevate and magnify, our great God during the pressing times that the Enemy means to use to keep us low.
The highest form of worship we can give is not when we're singing resounding praise songs during Sunday morning corporate worship, as heartfelt and exalting as this can be.
No, truly, it's when we're in the stillness and the darkness of the hour, when we're alone in our despondent thoughts and very real and very hard realities of our life's circumstances, and through the tears, with hands lifted high toward Heaven, still proclaim the goodness and glory of our great God who is so worthy of our adoration, no matter what, come what may.
This is why I love the Psalms. This is why I need the Psalms.