when there are no words, there are Psalms.

posted in: on being a captive set free | 2

I’ve always loved the Psalms. They’re so honest and filled with raw emotion. They don’t pretend to have it all together. They are filled with questions and doubts and pain and frustration. And yet they’re filled with hope and continually point to a picture of the God who rescues and redeems and does not forsake His people.

Recently, the Psalms have come even more to life for me. In that book I keep referencing because I’m still reading it 🙂 (You Can Change), Tim Chester speaks of the need to preach the truth to ourselves to combat the lies we believe about God. And then he points out that the Psalms are just that – real people preaching the truth to themselves in the face of real problems, doubts, fears, and emotions.

God has been taking everything I thought I knew and pretty much turning it all upside down, so I decided to approach my favorite Psalm (73) and try to step back and reconsider its words through this new lens. (I’ll have to tell you about that another time, because it was so, so good. But that’s not my point here. Man I have a problem with tangents. Anyway.) In the process of studying this Psalm, I was looking into the book of Psalms as a whole. I learned that the Psalter is essentially the hymnbook of the people of God at worship. But it is still Scripture. So this is the part I thought was so cool (from the ESV Study Bible): “Psalms do not simply express emotions: when sung in faith, they actually shape the emotions of the godly.”

Isn’t that neat?? I will be the first to raise my hand and say that my unstable emotions need some shaping. And I will also shout a resounding, “Amen!” to the reality that the Word of God has the power to shape and transform our hearts and minds. So why didn’t I consider this before? It’s not enough to just be honest about our feelings – we have to take our feelings and lay them raw and unfiltered before the truth of Scripture – the truth of who God is – and let that truth lead our hearts to hope and healing. And what better way to do that than through the words of people who know just how we feel? Words of people who remind themselves of the truth of who God is in the face of their failing hearts?

Here are some favorites as of late:

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill.
(Psalm 3:3-4 ESV)

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
(Psalm 107:4-9 ESV)

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
(Psalm 73:23-28 ESV)

2 Responses

  1. Again, thanks for your thoughts.

    Psalm 126
    1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
    2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
    then they said among the nations,
    “The LORD has done great things for them.”
    3 The LORD has done great things for us;
    we are glad.

  2. I love that surging feeling of memorizing God’s Word and having it “shape my emotions.” That is a very apt way of saying it. My favorite thing about the Psalms are the word pictures, trees planted by streams, cities on tall mountains, fields and shepherds……. These images put me in proximity to God.