Written by the staff of Renew Devotionals
Finding Solid Ground: Psalms
The Psalms teach us to bring our emotions to God and allow his Word to shed light on them.
Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the Law of the Lord,
And on His Law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers. -Psalm 1:1-3
The book of Psalms, a collection of Hebrew prayers written throughout Israel’s history, offers us a path to emotional solid ground. The Psalms lead us away from suppressing our emotions or being blindly controlled by them. Rather, they teach us to engage with what we’re feeling, to bring those feelings to God, and then to examine them in light of His Word!
The first chapter of Psalms describes the person who delights in God’s Word as “a tree firmly planted by streams of water.” Planting our deepest emotional experiences into the heart of God and his Word through prayer is what secures us in life.
The impulse to reach out to God is natural, but articulating ourselves doesn’t always come as easily. The Psalms help us learn to express our experiences and beliefs in our conversations with God.
For example, in Psalm 56, we find a prayer King David composed in time of anxiety. “Be gracious to me, O God,” he says, “for man has trampled upon me; Fighting all day long he oppresses me…” But then he says, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise.” In this Psalm we see David engage with the fear and discouragement he’s feeling, but also root himself in God’s protection.
Psalm 139 is a prayer David made when he was misunderstood and falsely accused by others. To refocus his attention away from his anxiety, he articulates what he knows to be true in prayer: that God knows him and loves him. He prays, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar…I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
In Psalms, we also find prayers of joy and thankfulness. For example, instead of simply praying, “Thanks for providing for me God,” David says in Psalm 23,
“The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.”
More than just talking to God in times of need, expressing our gratitude and praise to God actually enables us to experience joy even more deeply!
During his time on earth, Jesus himself quoted and prayed many of the Psalms. As he made their words his own, Jesus became the answer to all the Psalmists’ prayers! The Psalms cry out to God for things like justice, healing, and peace, and Christ fulfilled all these prayers when he died on the cross and rose from the dead.
This means when we pray the words of the Psalms, or when we bring our emotions and experiences to God, we now have the full Gospel picture.
For example, if you bring your shame to God with a Psalm of confession, you find the fullest expression of freedom in Christ! He took away all the guilt of your sin on the cross and declared you perfect in him. Or if you bring your sadness to God with a Psalm of lament, you find empathy in Christ! He bore the pain of the world on the cross, so he knows what hardship feels like. He also assures you that because of the cross, nothing can separate you from His love.
As you go further into your emotional life, you are descending even deeper into Christ’s very heart. This journey brings the true stability our hearts long for as Christ meets us exactly where we are.
RESPOND: Take a moment to bring any emotions you might be feeling to Jesus, anchoring yourself in Him and his truth.