Desperate Psalms

“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.”

That proclamation of comfort and assurance from Psalm 23 is probably the most familiar verse of scripture from any of the 150 Psalms.

Much less quoted are the Psalms of lament that cry out …

“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Ps. 13:1)

While hearing the struggling voices of God’s faithful servants can be a little uncomfortable to read at times, I do love that the Bible is so honest. Instead of always presenting an overly rosy picture of a life of faith, many of the people in the familiar stories grappled with the same issues that I have. Even God’s most committed followers often fought to overcome familiar and all too common hesitations and questions. I can relate well to those emotions, but I’m also grateful that the writers didn’t leave us to drown in our uncertainties when things don’t go according to our desires. If we look a little more deeply, the Psalms do more than just echo our inner anxieties; they help us move beyond our doubt-inducing questions and to lean on God Who gives us sure footing during our seasons of discontent.

Most of us would have to admit that difficult situations often leave us with words like those in Psalm 13 ricocheting around in our heads. Our unspoken thoughts tempt us to ponder where God is in our time of need. But instead of getting bogged down with our tires spinning in that mental rut, the latter verses of this same psalm (and ones like it) encourage us to trust in what we do know even when we don’t know why situations unfold the way they do.

But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me. – Ps 13:5-6

This writer concluded his verses by acknowledging his desperate feelings, but he doesn’t dwell there for long. He pushes himself through the bewilderment and confusion with a hope-filled and attitude-altering word: “But” which challenges him (and us) to move our focus away from our problems and onto the unfailing love of the One who rules over all things. And it’s not insignificant to notice that he declares his trust in God before his problems are fixed…before the situation is resolved… and even before he understood the complexities of what was happening. The psalmist deliberately chose to lift his voice during his confused suffering, purposefully reminding himself of tangible reasons to rejoice in God as his only source of sure and dependable hope. As Bible commentator Matthew Henry put it, “The way to forget our miseries, is to remember the God of our mercies.”

So as you face the unique situation you almost certainly find yourself in today, take the time to police your thinking. Though it’s OK to acknowledge desperate feelings, you’ll only rise above them when you consciously and deliberately choose to trust God and lift your voice in praise to Him.

9 thoughts on “Desperate Psalms

  1. I’ve learned over the years that “Learning to Lean” on Jesus is a process of trust. You so eloquently described that process in this blog.
    There’s a verse I always love to sing from an old gospel tune, “Learning To Lean”:
    Sad, broken-hearted, at the altar I knelt,
    I found peace that was so serene.
    And all that He asks for is a childlike trust
    And a heart that is learning to lean.

  2. Having been reading through the Psalms so much lately, I can definitely echo the feeling of life is hard and yet I will praise God! Thank you for the reminder!

  3. This is so real and practical. I like what Matthew says.. It’s really profound to actually be so much alert on the God of mercy when we are in misery.. Thank you so much for this beautiful post.

  4. More than refreshing! I don’t think there is anyone on this planet that can’t identify with the struggles of the Psalmist and other patriarchs of the faith. And yes, how comforting it is to know that their human frailties along with their God-given strengths have been clearly documented for our benefit. Thank you, Karen, for sharing with us Holy Spirit inspirations.

  5. Once Again!, Great reminders and encouragements as I start a new day. Your illustrations of ‘mental ruts’ and attentions to ‘attitude altering buts’ spurs me on to God’s path for me today. And, just as you have pointed our Hearts, His Words are waiting to Woo and Wow, Comfort and Calm, my needy and longing yearnings.

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