Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Encouragement of the Old Testament - Psalms

I used to think the Old Testament was not as important as the New Testament. I have to confess I saw it more as historical background, and therefore not as relevant or useful in everyday Christian life. What changed my mind was reading through it regularly in my daily Bible reading. I am amazed by what I was neglecting. As my faith and my relationship with God have developed, I have grown tremendously in my appreciation for the importance of the Old Testament writings in my daily life.

Example #1: I have found great encouragement in struggling with pain and suffering (both physical and emotional) through books like the Psalms and Lamentations. These books express cries of pain, anguish, grief, despair, and doubt very powerfully. I used to dismiss them because they were poetic. Now I cherish them, because they show that real children of God do struggle and that it is right to cry out to God in your struggles. David wrote a huge number of the Psalms. He was a man after God's own heart, yet he had these thoughts and made these anguished cries. So it's okay to admit you feel this way and to tell God about it. If David could express his heartache and fear and still be a man after God's own heart, then you can too (man or woman).

Some of us think that we have to suppress our struggles and pretend we aren't feeling doubt or fear, because we would somehow be accusing God or showing a lack of faith if we admitted to feeling this way. That is dangerous and unhealthy. We can't bear these burdens on our own. We need God to overcome these struggles. David honored God by crying out to Him in his suffering, because David showed that he trusted God as both the One who was powerful enough to rescue him and the One who was gracious and compassionate enough to do it.

Your feelings and thoughts aren't hidden from God (Psalm 139:1-4). He already knows how you're feeling inside, so there's no reason to avoid sharing it with Him in prayer. But when you express these things to Him in prayer and ask for His aid, you honor Him the same way David did. And you can take comfort knowing that God responds to these prayers:

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:17-18

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