As we are going through various psalms in the Book of Psalms this summer, we have heard personal perspectives on how people have been connected to certain chapters.
A few weeks ago, Pastor Ricky shared his deeply personal struggle with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and paralleled it to Psalm 23. He talked about the importance of having God change his attitude towards his illness, rather than just changing the illness. If you missed it, watch his teaching here.
Last week, Pastor Marty taught on Psalm 27, yet another psalm where the writer spends time waiting on God, facing down the darkness. Pastor Marty finished his teaching highlighting the importance of trusting God and having courage in the face of these struggles. Watch his teaching here.
These messages weren’t hard to hear in the sense that the teachings were poorly prepared, inaccurate, or suffered an inadequate presentation. They were tough only because they both rung true.
They were messages hard to hear, like a stinging truth delivered by a good friend. Though both teachings deal with psalms where the author sported slightly different attitudes towards suffering, both confront the simple and tough reality that life isn’t always happy.
Though we CAN take hope in knowing that God can change our attitudes towards suffering (Pastor Ricky), and that we CAN take courage in the face of darkness (Pastor Marty), both of these teachings are hard, because, when you really get down to it suffering and darkness are tough to endure. Both ideas, gaining a new perspective, and taking courage are things that we have to do when we’re already in the middle of the mess.
Sometimes it’s easy to encourage people with simple, positive words like “perspective,” “hope,” and “courage” when the reality of practicing these things is much more challenging than simple words can express.
It’s an odd thing, reading the Book of Psalms. On one hand, we have psalms written by David like Psalms 23, and 27 that describe the author’s sorrow and fear. Then there are other psalms by David that celebrate the goodness of God, like the darkness never happened in the first place.
How can this be?
One Old Testament scholar, John Goldingay, classifies three main types of Psalms. #1 Psalms of Orientation: psalms that praise God because everything is okay. #2 Psalms of Disorientation: psalms that cry out to God because everything has gone wrong. #3 Psalms of Reorientation: psalms that praise God because he has redeemed the psalmist from those times where everything went wrong.
Why is this important? Looking at the three types of Psalms we can see a cycle begin. We see the different psalmists going through life through times of good, times of evil, and times of relief from evil; then the cycle begins again.
From a simple standpoint there are three important things that we learn from this cycle.
- God redeems: bad times don’t last forever, even if it’s in heaven. Just as easily as we can be worried that suffering will happen, we can take comfort that it doesn’t last forever, even if it means that our relief will come in the afterlife.
- Hope and courage will pay off. If God does redeem, as we see in the Book of Psalms, we can take hope in the fact our hope and courage will not be left unmet. Even more so, it is this attitude of endurance that shapes us more and more like Jesus.
- It’s okay to stumble and struggle. The psalms are fundamentally the songs of people fumbling their way through life, and praising God for the good things, the okay things, and crying out to God during the bad times (whether or not the bad things just happened, or like David, the bad things were his own doing). Just like these psalmist stumble and struggle, God still hears them out and sees them through.
Though these past two teachings have been tough reminders of both the inevitability of hard times, and how hard it is to face them, they’ve been a good reminder that we are able to face them with God and with each other, united in the shared hope we have in Jesus.