Psalms Part One: Deep Dive
THE HEART OF A WORSHIPPER | RYAN SMITH
Psalms, one of the five poetry books of the Old Testament, provides helpful insight for us with where our society is today because it identifies with what a lot of Christians experience who don’t know how to process or respond to their circumstances without feeling inadequate or disqualified.
We’re living in a time where we see many people face an emotional crisis on a daily basis, so much so, that they rely on medical aid to numb their pain. Why do the Psalms bring such relief and reassurance to us believers in this modern era? The answer is simple: it gives us the permission and freedom to process the emotions of anger, sadness, fear, shame, depression and anxiety without feeling defeated or forgotten. David, the central figure of worship and main contributor of Psalms, certainly didn’t have any problems expressing himself–quite the opposite, in fact. Some might think that David was a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy or that he was perhaps a whinger and those kinds of people never get things done because they’re too busy being critical, judgmental and intolerant.
However, David was incredibly productive and effective at all he put his hand to. In fact, David was extremely self-actualized, self-aware and he made no apologies for journalling his lament and venting his frustration and impatience towards God regarding others. His thorn was clearly a constant annoyance with the mediocrity of many and the observations he made in others regarding their lack of devotion to God. He never pretended to have it all together himself, nor did he go out of his way to present a polished image because that would have been corrupt and inaccurate by his standards. A lot of the rejection that he faced from others was probably because they felt exposed by his relentless love and pursuit for God.
Now bring that into the modern day, modern times and what does it look like in our churches today? For as long as I can remember, Christians have always been taught to be overcomers, that they need to have is faith for the impossible and that all things work together for good. But what happens when a believer has a faith crisis? Or when confusion, turmoil, disturbance and uncertainty disempowers them from worshipping God? Where do you take all that emotion? Thankfully, Psalms give us a picture of the worshipper in both the place of enlightenment and in places of emotional pain or crisis. It displays the constant grapple between a contemplative Christianity and the inner protest we all have at the unavoidable struggles of life when we don’t understand what God is doing.
Without the transparency of the psalmist, would we give ourselves permission to find God through life’s negative challenges? Who knows? Maybe not. Psalms have also been a constant ‘go to’ for Christians when it comes to inspiration for worship. The term ‘worship’, from the Old Testament to the New, before music became the conduit by which we express it for the modern worship services, means to live a life of consecration towards God. It was mentioned by the prophets and priests in the Old Testament and then by Paul in Chapter 12 in his letter to the church in Rome. Paul writes, ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is your true and proper worship.’ Paul is talking about a life that is submerged in God despite personal circumstances or feelings.
Until the point of crisis in our lives, one might argue that our worship may be feelings-based, and therefore it’s the crisis and emotional turmoil that life tends to send our way that is the true reveal of the depth and authenticity of our worship. Until that moment, the depth of our worship remains untested. The Psalms tell the stories of emotional infancy in the life of a worshipper without covering over brokenness, weakness, failure or frustration. It uncovers the point of difference between the kind of worshipper who feels the insatiable need to present a polished image to God in order to be received versus the worshipper who finds God in the imperfections of their life and can worship Him wholeheartedly through it. The latter, wouldn’t you agree, is far less exhausting?
Ryan Smith is a Pastor at C3 Church Oxford Falls. He led the worship team at C3 Church Oxford Falls for over 15 years and is an incredible communicator, writer and one of the funniest people we know!
Also ensure you check out Ryan’s albums on ITunes–they are great for Bible reading: Hiding Place and Sons Can Rest! Sons Can Rest is my favourite, it is instrumental only so it is so great to have playing while you are reading your Bible is not distracting but brings such a beautiful presence of God! Click on the links below to find them on Spotify!