The Shocking Reason We Hang Out in Psalms

Like many of you, I am not always okay these days. There are moments when I feel connected with Jesus, engaged with work, on-top of the pandemic situation, and prayerful.

Then, there are the other moments.

When I’m frustrated at the number on my scale. Or sad about the loss of my dad. When I’m angry about a painful family situation – or about social distancing – or about the division in our country. When I’m blue about the prolonged separation from my kids and grandkids or I’m disappointed in not meeting my own productivity expectations. When I’m annoyed with my husband (or quarantine-mate) or he with me.

None of these emotions change the truth of the gospel in my life, my foundational belief in Scripture, or my trust that God will work all this together for good for those who love Him, and yet, it doesn’t always feel okay to tell other Christians when I’m not okay.

I know it is fine to not be okay because I read the Bible. Jeremiah, Moses, Paul, Job, and Jesus Himself had moments when they were not feeling okay about their situations. We have recorded the times when they expressed these feelings to God in prayer.

And, yet, we struggle to hear these same sentiments – anger, fear, sadness, grief, disappointment, stress, frustration – from other believers without immediately responding with a Bible verse or Christian cliché designed to “fix” our friend’s mood.

The Psalms don’t do that. The Psalms remind us God designed us with a full emotional palette and not all of them are pleasant to express. Better yes, we know the Psalms – in all their raw, emotional, transparent, theologically sound resonance – are blessed by God as holy Scripture and we find this more assuring than the rapid religious prescriptions too often doled out by our Christian friends.

David was one of the chief Psalmists and we know him to be “a man after God’s own heart.” David honored the truth of who God is as He reveals Himself through His Word. David generally ends every Psalm with a redemptive, hopeful statement about God’s nature and His plan.

But, David was more willing than our modern cohorts to also honor the truth of his experience as a human being living in a fallen world.  

David’s faith in God’s character was so rich and full that he could risk being fully human in front of God. Psalm 103:13-14 says it best, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” ESV

God rejects our sin, but He does not reject our humanity. He created us and knows our design better than we do.

He knows we’re suffering from this social distancing because He made us to live in community with others. He knows we are sometimes afraid, anxious, angry, sad, disappointed, grieved, or frustrated. He’s not afraid of these emotions and is ready to process them with us, just as He did with David in the Psalms, if we’ll only let Him.

It may be disturbing, but apparently an ancient warrior/poet/shepherd/king was more in touch with his emotional truth than many of us are today.

The shocking truth is that as much as our society understands about feelings, many Christians still feel more comfortable turning to a dead Psalmist for comfort than they do other Christians. We have evidence in Scripture that we should be accessing support from both.

Of course, we want to encourage one another with God’s Word, to fortify our hearts with truth, and to inspire one another to hope. We do this by honoring the truth of Jesus Christ and clinging to that as the final word on all our situations.

But, the pathway for most us to pinning our emotions to that truth is to bushwhack through the whole truth of what we’re feeling and experiencing. We need to honor our own humanity by honestly speaking the truth when we’re not okay, to express it and explore it before God (and often another mature believer) and THEN restate the truth of Christ to which we cling.

When I was learning long-division, I would often get lost somewhere in the problem. Sometimes my teacher would tell me the right answer but then insist I work back through the problem and sort out where I went astray.

We honor God, not by handing our brothers and sisters the “right answer” but by sitting with them, reminding them that God hasn’t changed, but then listening to their current discomfort, accepting them where they are, and THEN asking what truth they know about Christ they can hold onto until their emotions come around.

As my math teacher used to say, it’s not just about the right answer, it’s about developing the confidence to work through the next problem.

We can help one another with that. We can be living Psalms by being willing to be authentic with one another at the same time we state God’s truth. By honoring our humanity as we honor the unchanging truth of Jesus Christ, we deliver the whole truth and grow deeper in relationship with one another.


 

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24 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Eric Cicero says:

    I find the Psalms to be some of the most therapeutic of all the books in the Bible. Exactly what I need during bad times as well as good times.

  2. Deb Haggerty says:

    Great blog post. Right on the money.

  3. Linda Harris says:

    I love this, Lori! I love the Psalms and take even the tough parts along with the comforting parts. (Now the prophets are another story!) As for parents, I’m glad that mine are with Jesus now and didn’t have to live through this time of pandemic. They were born just after the Spanish flu, and had to live through the Depression. I’m not sure how well they would have done if they were still here.

    • As much as I miss my Dad, I’m forever grateful that his passing occurred LAST March and not this one. He is safely in the arms of Jesus and we didn’t have to endure the complications of grieving loved ones during this pandemic. My prayers are with all who do.

  4. Linda Greene says:

    Thank you for your transparency, Lori. Great post!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Being a person that is able to validate others that are struggling emotionally, and yet maintain a firm grasp on biblical truth at the same time, is a rare individual indeed.
    How wonderful that the Psalms aren’t so hard to find.
    How tragic that mature people are!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am still following you up here in Alaska and as always, getting inspired. This most interesting time in our lives is proving, to me , to be a time of great introspection and spiritual growth. The Psalms have never been so personal to me as they are in these times.

    I find the majority of my prayers to be lifting up my grand babies. That they are raised to have a sturdy foundation built on scriptural principals so that; if they find themselves to be in Daniel-like situations , they will not only survive but be unmistakable in their commitment to honor Christ… no matter what the cost.

    Love and Grace to you, in Christ our Lord,
    Sharmel.

  7. Jane Jernoske says:

    You expressed what I am feeling! I draw strength from your source of David and the Psalms!

  8. Deb Kreyssig says:

    Thanks Lori! There is a theme going on in my Bible studies this morning and it’s our need for each other. Let us not be afraid to reach out if we need comfort or help. Let as also be a safe place for others to come to. When they do, may we bring them to the source of all comfort and healing, Jesus Christ!
    Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
    Ecclesiastes 4:9‭-‬12 NIV

  9. Sandi says:

    Thanks, needed to hear this one today! Refreshing! Go slow dance with your quarantine mate for me and seize the day. My husband of 46 years and I used to dance in our grocery aisles (they played oldies all the time) – before cancer sent him home to glory in June of 18. Blessings to you Lori!

  10. Sherry Kaiser says:

    Lori, this is outstanding. Thanks again for another thought-inspiring, God-honoring piece.

  11. Sherry Carter says:

    I love this, Lori! Many years ago, my family endured a viscous attack. I was so hurt and angry, I didn’t know if I could survive. Then I found Psalms. I went through and found verses where the writer asked God to destroy his enemies and I read them out loud to God.

    God slowly moved me to more calming, healing prayers, but that experience taught me that scripture allows us to express our deepest needs without fear. God drew near to me, even in my anger.

  12. Beth Saadati says:

    Thanks for writing this, Lori. It was good to read. Agreed that believers desperately need safe people and safe places where it’s okay to not be okay. It’s only when we can be broken and real that we can hope to gradually heal. You stated this perfectly; I can definitely relate to your third-paragraph vulnerability. Also, the ending tags made me smile. Again, thanks.

  13. Maggie Rowe says:

    Lori, you had me at that first line. I’m not always okay these days either, but my mantra is “Do your best and commit the rest.” The Psalms have been my lifeline during very turbulent times in the past – one of which lasted a full decade. I had promised myself that I’d check into a mental institution when that was over but somehow it never was and I never did.

    I so appreciate your writing – raw, honest, full of truth and wisdom.