The Spectrum of Human Emotion
Sing a new song! The call is sprinkled throughout the psalms to express the joy of new blessings received from God’s hand. Those blessings weren’t limited to the psalmists’ days; they are meant for us as well. That’s one reason Psalms is the most universally loved book of the Bible. Its appeal isn’t so much the poetry or the musical aspects but what it conveys about God himself—that he welcomes the honest outpouring of his people’s hearts.
Joy, sorrow, anger, fear, perplexity, discouragement, and longing—the entire spectrum of human emotion—are reflected in the psalms and taken to God in prayerful song. And each psalm reveals particular facets of God himself. We can go deeper into the psalms in all kinds of ways. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Build confidence in prayer.
The heartfelt prayers of the psalmists build our confidence to approach God with our personal pleas and pains. They also guide the substance of our prayers. We don’t know God’s will in all its particulars, but we can be sure that the prayer requests of the psalmists are God’s will because they are part of Scripture, and we can adapt them to our own situations. How did the psalmists pray in a crisis, and what did they ask for? How did they approach God after a fall into sin? How did praying give them perspective in difficult relationships?
2. Prepare a Bible study.
Gather a group of women to study the psalms. In all our Bible studying, we want to be faithful to the biblical text, which requires examining the original context. We want to know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the psalmists before we apply what we read to our own circumstances. Looking at the original context provides us with an accurate view of God, which is necessary for real spiritual growth.
3. Journal your emotions.
Let’s face it—we women are emotional creatures. And we don’t have to apologize for that fact. After all, God designed us this way, and from the psalms we see that God works in and through our emotions to draw us closer to him and to mature us spiritually. Track the dominant emotions in each psalm you read. Do they fluctuate from beginning to end, and if so, why? Where is God in the midst of depression? How is anger expressed and dealt with? What causes joy and happiness? If you’d like to get a better handle on your own emotions, consider journaling your way through the psalms.
From the psalms we see that God works in and through our emotions to draw us closer to him and to mature us spiritually.
4. Weave the Psalms with hospitality.
As you will see, the psalms were sung primarily in gatherings of God’s people. During a celebratory season, host a gathering at which each participant reads aloud a portion of a thanksgiving psalm. Or when believers you know suffer rejection or persecution for their faith, gather together to pray one of King David’s laments. There are so many possibilities here!
This article is adapted from Sing a New Song: A Woman’s Guide to the Psalms by Lydia Brownback.
- 4 Ways to Read the Bible for Personal Application (David Powlison)
- Podcast: What We Often Get Wrong about Our Emotions (J. Alasdair Groves)
- Why We Don’t Have to Hide Our Pain from God (Lydia Brownback)