Throughout the years that I have been walking with the Lord, outside of the Gospels, no other section of the Bible has encouraged, inspired, enriched, and even emboldened my relationship with the Lord at the heart level like the Psalms have. As I have walked through seasons of immense joy and triumph as well as unfathomable sorrow and suffering, I have found myself returning again and again to the Psalms. In those seasons, the Psalms give me language and even permission to pour out the entirety of my heart to the Lord whether in prayer, praise, or even lament.
The personal nature of the Psalms is shown through their comprehensive representation of the human experience and full range of emotion, which has been the sweetest gift in helping me cultivate a true and intimate friendship with the Lord.
The book of Psalms is a collection of 150 individual songs, hymns, poems, and prayers written by broken and messy people just like us. People navigating their faith against the backdrop of war and national turmoil. People who are fighting to keep the glory and purposes of God in view while walking through the trials of loss, opposition, poverty, and the like, wrestling daily with sin and stumbling daily along the way. People watching injustice and evil prevail in the world around them and wondering where God was and how He could possibly be good if— (fill in the blank).
We see it all in the Psalms. We see doubt. We see hopelessness. We see pain. We see anger, grief, shame, and fear. We see faith. We see thanksgiving. We see mourning turned to gladness right in the middle of a song. We see proclamations of the Lord’s goodness and grace. In every single Psalm we are reminded of God’s wise and loving care for His people even while they wrestle.
Many of the Psalms were written by King David, who of course we know is the one man in the entire Bible that God referred to as a “man after His own heart”. David was everything but righteous. He was a mighty King with a list of transgressions that would probably put us all to shame. He was a liar. He was a murderer. He was a manipulator. He was an adulterer. The list goes on and on. It makes no sense at all how someone who was so prone to personal weakness could receive such profound validation from God until you start reading the Psalms.
When you look a little bit closer you see a man who understood his place in the story of God. You see a man who prioritized the presence of God above all else. You see a man who chose to see his trials through the lens of God’s sovereign goodness. You see a man who considered the pursuit of knowing God as more desirable than all of the honor, riches, and pleasure that the world has to offer. I believe this is what made David a man after God’s own heart. Even while navigating his own brokenness and failure, he always returned to God with a heart of repentance and worship. He always came back to putting God in His rightful place. At the end of the day, he was a man of one single pursuit (Psalm 27). He wanted to know, experience, and love God deeply.
David (and all of the other authors of the Psalms) give us hope that we too, as broken and complex as we are, can be people after God’s own heart. We can be a people who taste and see the goodness of God in an authentic way on a daily basis even as we navigate through the muck of our lives. Through worship, right sizing the glory of God and relating to God in a way that is authentic and heartfelt- we too can be the kind of people that God defines as in fact after His very own heart.
The Psalms teach us how to pray more authentically, how to worship more extravagantly, and how to trust God more wholeheartedly with the ever changing circumstances of our lives.
I don’t know about you but as a worship leader, and even just as a follower of Christ in general, I really struggle with authenticity. It just always feels a little easier to “fake it until I make it”, especially when I’m dealing with the tension of leading in ministry while wrestling with God in some way. The temptation to perfect or perform my way into a right standing with God is still ever present. So much so that I often miss out on the sweetness of what prayer and communion with God is supposed to be. I want my words to be just right. I want to have something worth offering when I come to God, all the while forgetting that the sacrifices that the Father actually desires are a broken and contrite heart.
The Psalms affirm the Gospel in showing us that if we could please God by means of human perfection, there would have been no need for the cross of Christ. They show us that life is a mess. It’s high and it’s low. We are a mess. We are high and we are low and our only hope is to consistently put our faith and trust in the God who transcends it all. The Psalms model for us the way forward. Honest prayer is the way forward. Surrender is the way forward. Directing our hearts to the Lord consistently through the constantly shifting seasons of life is the way forward. God is always ready to receive us in whatever state of heart and mind we show up.
So today, whatever state of mind and heart you find yourself in, whatever questions you’re wrestling with, whatever tensions you’re holding, pick a Psalm, carve out a little bit of space and let it launch you into an open hearted and authentic conversation with a God who has made room and provision for every single one of your needs and imperfections!