January 2, 2020 | By Jay Ashbaucher
The individuals who write the Psalms are very open and honest in expressing their thoughts and emotions during dark times. When they are upset, downhearted, and depressed, they share how they are feeling, and when they are able to exercise their faith in God, they share their hopes and joys. Because we also experience difficulties in life and go through similar thoughts and feelings, we can closely identify with what they are going through. That is why so many people feel comfort and help when they read the Psalms. They realize they are not alone and are encouraged.The Psalm writers are people of faith who believe in the God who created all things, the God who knows them perfectly, the God who loves them deeply, and the God who is able to bring them out of their anxiety-ridden thoughts and feelings. It seems whenever the Psalm writers are down, their thoughts about God, and their confidence in him, fills their souls with feelings of peace and the expectation that everything will be all right. Reflecting on God strengthens their trust in him, encourages them, and enables them to rise above their fearful, anxious, stressful, and depressed feelings.
In this section of the Psalms (138 through 145), David the writer is struggling with his enemies. His enemies are often physical armies that threaten to overpower and destroy him and his nation. You probably do not have David’s kinds of enemies threatening to destroy you, so in reading these Psalms, you need to see other kinds of enemies that are threatening to weaken you and bring you down. For example, Jesus says “the devil is a murderer” (John 8:44), and Peter says “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). If Satan is the enemy who you sense is feeding your mind with his evil and negative life-destroying thoughts, latch onto any of God’s words in these Psalms that counter those thoughts and tell Satan to be gone, for you are choosing to believe God’s words of truth.
If your enemy is people who are failing you or wronging you in any way, you may come across Psalms that will help you deal with those people, possibly helping you see them in a different light. God may want you to decide to turn them over to him and let him handle them, or pray for them and do good for them, or responsibly and peaceably confront them to try and correct the wrongs (see Romans 12:17-21).
If your enemy is yourself and God wants you to change something that you wrongly believe or something about your behavior, you need to become humbled, accept God’s words, and be willing to change your beliefs or behavior.
If your enemy is your anxieties, doubts, or fears; the Psalms very likely will offer thoughts concerning faith and trust in God, so that by his Spirit stirring up faith, hope, and God’s love in you, you are helped to put such troubling thoughts to rest.
Even though the literal “armies” situation you are reading about in Psalms 138-145 may not be your situation, the enemies listed above can take the place of the armies. There are universal principles in many Biblical contexts that can apply to any situation, in this case, the idea of substituting different kinds of enemies in place of armies may apply. THE FOLLOWING GUIDELINES ON HOW TO READ THESE PSALMS MAY HELP YOU IN OVERCOMING YOUR ENEMIES AND YOUR PERSONAL TROUBLES.
- Before reading, set aside a time when you will not feel hurried. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Pray that God will teach you what he wants you to know and to help you be open to what he says. Ask him to help you overcome your anxieties and fears. Tell him you are open to believing and being changed by whatever he may share with you. We are fighting our battles on a spiritual level, and like the Psalm writers, we want God to enable us to feel hopeful and positive that things will work out for our good, and we want to be able to fulfill any purpose God has for us.
- Read these Psalms in consecutive order, keep reading, and as you come across verses that stand out to you, pause to reflect on them, for his Spirit is drawing your attention to them and putting them on your heart. Let them sink into your heart, meditate on them, and rejoice in what God is showing you. Writing your thoughts as you read may help you to slow down and perhaps get more out of what God is saying. What happens to us when we read the Psalms is up to the Spirit of God.
- As you read, here are a few things to try.
(1) Be aware of thoughts or feelings you are experiencing and pause to tell God, or write down, what you are thinking or feeling, the good and the bad. Honesty brings healing. God understands you. At any time during your reading, pray any prayers that come to mind.
(2) There are things, as you read, where you may sense God telling you to change an attitude, or a particular behavior. Be humbled, submit, and express your willingness to change and do what God is prompting you to change and do. Thank him for showing you things about yourself that will make you a better person.
(3) You may experience certain emotions as you read. You may feel humbled before God. You may feel your fears and anxieties leaving you. You may feel peaceful, joyful, and strong again; encouraged to keep going and believing that God is with you. You may feel loved by God and that he cares about you. The Spirit of God will do what he wants to do in your heart. Thank him, praise him, worship him.
(4) You may feel God is helping you now or is going to help you. When he does, you may feel like telling others what God has done for you. It is good to give glory to God for his great love and his wonderful works in your life.
(5) You may think or feel that these Psalms have no direct correlation to your problems. Nevertheless, if you keep on, or even repeat your reading, you may see things you did not see before, and God may answer your prayer for help. Read again, asking the Spirit of God to do what he wants in your mind and heart. He may answer in ways you do not expect.
In general, if you are a believer in Christ Jesus, as you read statements about God and the things he does, pause to marvel, be in awe, and appreciate how great God is. Take a moment to worship God in your heart. Thank and praise him for his love, goodness, and faithfulness to you. Be open to his words and continue to ask God to breathe renewed life into your soul. My prayer in writing this is that you will learn what the Psalmist has learned, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your word has revived me” (Psalm 119:50).