Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Read the Psalms

There’s trouble everywhere we look. The world is going to hell in a hand basket. We’re teetering at the brink of economic catastrophe, not to mention war. Racial tension, police brutality, school shootings, car bombs, and then, if all that weren’t enough, global warming and the weird weather that’s happening everywhere. Now there’s the earthquakes, twice or three times as many as there used to be, and volcanoes flaring up as well. Closer to home, drought and forest fires. Even closer to home, burglaries that empty a house of all valuables, emotional illnesses, work-related problems, and—worst of all, intolerable loneliness and a sense of being abandoned, unloved. Is it the world, or are we going mad?

I counsel myself and my co-suffering neighbor, ‘Read the psalms.’ What I mean to say is, Pray the psalms,’ but not everyone is comfortable with that. Reading them is enough, doesn’t put you in the hotspot of having to actually believe God will do something. So I say again, ‘Read the psalms, there’s something in them that will calm you, reassure you, maybe even strengthen you to survive all these disasters as they come down.’

I know that’s what they do for me. If I feel myself getting anxious about what is going on around me, but even when things seem to be going ‘just too good to be true,’ I try to pull myself away, out of the flow, or rather the push, of life, and stand on that pebbly bottom of the stream, the psalms. That’s what they are for me. A solid surface that is broken up into pebbles just as I, who seem solid, am really broken. Their brokenness mends mine, and the waters that flow around me (and when I’ve fallen, over me) feel cool and refreshing again, because of that solidity beneath me. And I realize, everything is as it must be, and I am no longer afraid.

As bad as things can get, as deep and unrelievable our sorrows, or the sorrows of the world, though we hope for the end to come, that’s not the way it happens. ‘When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs’ (Mark 13:7-8). The birth pangs? O my God! Here we are wishing we could die and get it over with, and we’re told, ‘Get ready! You’re just about ready to be born!’

As for the end of all things, the end of the world, the end of war, the end of my oppressive marriage, bad relationship, or frustrating job, though we wish we could have it over and done with, that’s just not how it happens, not for the world, not for us as people. Things don’t get worse and worse until the end comes, no, they get worse and worse, you think you can’t take it anymore, and then—you’re out! If this is the end, if this is the death we sometimes long for to kill our sorrows, we’re in for a surprise. As Uncle Walt says, ‘To die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.’

Yes, the end is near, but not the end we think, or the one we sometimes hope for. The year ahead is going to be one of the most challenging the world has seen in many a year, and our personal lives are not going to slip through unscathed. But this is why I say, again, ‘Read the psalms,’ and if you can stomach it, ‘pray them.’ Why do I say, ‘if you can stomach it’? Well, because the abdomen is the ‘seat of the soul,’ which we will notice if we recite the ‘first and great commandment’ when we make the sign of the Cross.

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind (head), with all your soul (abdomen), with all your strength (right shoulder), and with all your heart (left shoulder).’

In the midst of every trouble opens a door to get out of it. That is faith. That is trust. Yes, try trusting the God you say you believe in but don’t, or the One you say you don’t believe in, but maybe secretly do. You may be surprised, at yourself, for your foolishness, and then at Him, for existing. For He doesn’t hold grudges, no matter what. He tells us, as He told the Jews, ‘If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father’ (John 10:37-38). What are ‘the works’ that Jesus speaks of?

Well, no matter how dark it gets, ‘read the psalms,’ and you’ll always have Light.


HandWrittenWord said...

Praying the Psalms -- wonderful and powerful. Thank you for this reminder.

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Do we suppose that Our Lord did not know the 22nd Psalm? Or what it promises in verses 22-31?

Again, thanks for this entry.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

The Hebrew custom when praying the psalms is to open with speaking the first verse or two aloud, and then to continue to the end silently.

Of course, He is hanging on the Cross in excruciating agony, yet He follows the tradition, praying / reciting the entire psalm to the very end.

The average Jew would have memorised not only this psalm, but probably nearly all of them, so to be able to intone them and meditate on them anywhere.

But yes, Christ knew, since He is the Word of God appearing as a man, that psalm 22 is a prophecy of His life, culminating in universal, eternal victory.

Thanks for your comment, brother.

HandWrittenWord said...

Yes, indeed. And from the cross, in excruciating agony, He announces to everyone with ears to hear, an invitation to ponder a prophetic Psalm that describes in detail everything that they are witnessing, and the glorious outcome...

Romanos - Your blog entries are a tremendous blessing and encouragement to me. Thank you for your faithfulness.