Reading the Psalms is always a great delight. It is easy to notice when it is one of those delightful kind of Psalms. But some others, of course, take you through the valley of the shadow before the delight arrives. It certainly does come, but only as if through the darkness. I am glad not many are as black as Psalm 88; man, it must take you low, if its high point reads, “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.” (Ps 88:18). But even these dark chapters from the Psalmist’s life can resonate with the ones the author of life is writing in your life story. In some (possibly sick) way, this can provide you some encouragement and help (although I never really understand how this works; you say to a friend, “I am feeling pretty low”, and they say, “Me too”, and you both feel better???)
But even as you travel with the Psalmist through those valleys into which he so regularly drags you, the delights keep cropping up and surprising you.
There is something real about the Psalms. As you read about the Psalmist’s world, it still looks the same as your world. There is no need to invent a rose-coloured environment in which to live out your faith—as if this is what everyone wants. There is no false drive to ‘escape’ or ‘overcome’ or to live some kind of ‘victory’ (or, if you can’t live it, to at least pretend you do).
But in the midst of this realism, like a cool breeze on a stifling summer’s night comes the quiet promises of God. Despite the rhetoric in so many of ‘his’ churches, these promises don’t really tell you how to escape; instead, they help you to endure.
Sometimes such surprises meet you in the obscure Psalms, rather than the golden oldies. I almost missed one in Psalm 12 the other day, but then its coolness across the smelly city just caught my cheek and made me look again:
“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
Mmm, interesting: the longing for safety, for security, for rest, for wellbeing … that sure sounds like the rumblings I feel in my soul. Mmm, this is even more delightful: one day the Lord will place me right there in it. That sounds like it is something worth enduring for.