It’s OK to not be OK – feeling your way through Psalms

It’s OK to not be OK – feeling your way through Psalms

It’s OK to not be OK – feeling your way through Psalms

by David Webster
4th May 2020

All of us go through rough times. For some it’s so bad they describe it as “the dark night of the soul.” In the present atmosphere of the corona virus you could be forgiven for feeling down and discouraged, even depressed. Few of us have experienced such a pandemic with its daily death toll and the economic and personal challenges that come with it as well. Where do we go for help? When spiritual answers don’t quite cut it and God is hard to find, who can identify with us in the gloom?

In this season I try to spend as much time in the Psalms as I can. These guys, the writers, have been there and got the tee shirt. As I read them I feel their pain. In good times I tend to skip over what are called the “lamenting” Psalms but they are incredibly helpful at the moment. Take Psalm 55:

My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught” (v2).
My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death assail me” (v4).
Fear and trembling have beset me, horror has overwhelmed me” (v5).

In Psalm 22 the feelings are ever more visceral:

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, you lay me in the dust of death” (22:14,15).

That’s it, that’s how I feel. That’s it right there! This guy (David) gets it, that’s how I feel right now. The Psalm gives me freedom to let my feelings out, just as the writer did, just as he did to God, yes to God’s face. He didn’t try to hide how he felt. This is genuine biblical feeling, gut wrenching fear, authentic anxiety and deep depression. This is as much an encounter with God as those magnificent worship times I have. They give me permission to cry out to him, my Father, and let him know how I feel.

The object of David’s distress in Psalm 55 is a close friend who has deceived and betrayed him, but the same feelings can arise in all manner of situations. About a third of the Psalms are laments like this, they don’t always make for comfortable reading, but are highly relevant in the present pandemic. All the Psalms were originally sung (some of the tunes are mentioned, but sadly not now known). Why was this? One reason may be because singing engages the emotions in a way that mere reading cannot. It invites us to feel the emotion of the Psalm, literally feel the pathos of the original.

Let me encourage you to do this when you are down, when the present crisis gets on top of you. Even without the tunes, read the Psalms aloud, let God’s word help you express and explore how you feel. It’s OK to not feel OK!

You won’t stay in the gloom however. As I heard John Ortberg say recently, “lament always leads to trust.” The Psalms will lead you into the presence of God and into a place of trust. They also speak prophetically of a suffering king who knows how we feel and who will redeem us, forgive our sins, heal all our diseases and transform this world into his Kingdom. Great grounds for trust:

But as for me, I trust in you” (Psalm 55:23)