“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2
One of the basic instructions for followers of Christ is to spend time in God’s Word. We’re told to read the Bible, and there are truly millions of resources we can use to help us dig into the Word. But there’s something about just reading God’s Word, without the influence of someone else that is so pure.
But each book has a different story to tell (of course, it all can be summed up in One Big Story.) The historical books of the Old Testament explain how humanity got its start, while the New Testament explores how God’s Son changed the trajectory of the world. The epistles of the New Testament urge and encourage the Church how it should act, while the prophetic Old Testament books remind us of the just God we serve.
And nestled right smack dab in the middle of the Bible is my absolute favorite part: the Psalms — 150 chapters detailing what it means to be an emotional human in relationship with our unwavering God.
Our world seems to get more and more chaotic with every passing day. One week in 2021 feels like I’m on a rollercoaster of emotions and the ride just won’t stop. I can feel joy and happiness in the morning, but by the end of the day, life and the world around me weigh me down. It can leave me feeling so lonely and empty, like there’s no way things can get better.
And that’s where the Psalms come in. I started really meditating on a few Psalms each day, and I can truly say these short chapters have changed my perspective on life over the years. I have this idea set so deeply in my heart that if we all read more Psalms, the world would be a better place — a place where we understand one another more, a place where we fight less and love more, a place where we are able to laugh and cry with friends in the same conversation.
You may wonder how this one book could have such an impact, so let me explain a few key reasons why you should start reading the Psalms:
Psalms help us speak to God. In times where I have felt so conflicted and confused about life, I have sat down to pray, only for no words to come out of my mouth. Everything is jumbled up in my head, and I get so overwhelmed that I don’t even know where to start. Those moments are where I turn to Psalms for help. There is truly a psalm for every emotion, every human experience. If you’re angry at God, turn to Psalm 22. Feeling abandoned? Try Psalm 16. Struggling with grief? Check out Psalm 34. There’s even Psalms for when you’re feeling overwhelmed with joy and happiness, and you just want to praise God for everything. (Psalm 116 is a great one to speak out loud in prayer to the Lord.) Using a psalm as a prayer is a great way to strengthen your prayer life with God.
Psalms encourage us to be honest with God and ourselves. I won’t lie, some of the Psalms are deeply convicting. David, who wrote most of them, is brutally honest about his life and his feelings when he speaks with God. He doesn’t pull any punches or make things nice and pretty for the Lord. In Psalm 13, he asks God — the good, good Father of all things — “Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” It may seem a bit dramatic, but that is David speaking with honesty from his heart. He wasn’t afraid that he would hurt God’s feelings. He didn’t stop himself from saying something that could make it seem like he lacked faith. He spoke up about his situation and how he was feeling at that moment. And guess what? God wasn’t mad at David for being honest. In fact, we know from the other books of the Old Testament that God was close to David throughout his life. I believe their intimacy was strong because David chose to be honest with God and not withhold anything. It can seem scary to tell God how we really feel about our lives, but God can take it. In fact, He wants us to be honest.
Psalms don’t follow a neatly-packed narrative. So often, we want everything in life to make sense. We want our lives to follow specific steps, “First this will happen, then this, then this…” and so on. But that rarely happens. It’s the same way with the Psalms. They don’t follow a logical narrative theme, or even a chronological timeline. In one chapter you’re reading about a relatively unknown Israelite wondering why God has hidden Himself from His people, and in the next chapter Moses is praising God for being our dwelling place (Psalms 89 and 90). To an English teacher, the Psalms may be a bit too chaotic to engage with, but the rest of humanity can see the reality of our own lives. Our path of life can change instantly and so can our emotions, but God is never phased by this. In fact, I believe the Psalms are in the middle of His Great Book to remind humans that he expects us to feel a range of emotions in our journey.
The overall message of the Psalms is that being a human is messy and rarely straight-forward. We don’t have to have our emotions set straight. We can take the good, the bad, and the ugly to God, and He doesn’t run away from us. Psalms reminds me that I’m not the only human riding the rollercoaster of life, and neither are you. So whether you’ve been speaking to God for 30 years or it’s your first time praying, open up Psalms today and remind yourself what it means to be human.