PSALMS FOR TROUBLED TIMES by William Boekestein for Core Christianity
You and I live in troubled times. Right now our attention is focused on a deadly virus and the accompanying financial instability. But this news has only eclipsed countless stories of violence, political free-for-alls, public moral failures, and general cultural upheaval. We also face more personal crises like backstabbing by the hands of a friend and parental breakups. For these and more reasons we worry about our future. What will it be like to grow up or grow old in these troubled times?
It isn’t surprising that many people turn to the Psalms amid trouble. Psalm writers were not recreational poets. Instead, they often wrote from within the chaotic, unsanitized place of disaster. David, God’s anointed, was hunted by Saul. His best friend was butchered by enemies. His own son tried to steal his kingdom. And David’s troubles only hint at the turbulent life of Jesus, who left the bliss of heaven for thirty-three agonizing years on earth.
Especially in troubled times, Christians should read and pray the Psalms (James 5:13) so that they can guide and refine us. Why are psalms so precious in troubled times?
1. Psalms give us perspective.
These troubles are not new. In our day, as in all times, the righteous can feel like “the foundations are destroyed” (Ps. 11:3). Three hundred years ago, Matthew Henry noted in his reflection on Psalm 14 the common assumption that problems were never so severe as they are now. He responds by saying, “But we see the former days were no better.” We are not the first to face our challenges.
And we don’t face them alone. Even when the foundations appear to be destroyed, “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven” (v. 4). Our problems are God’s problems. Following a deadly shooting in 2015 a newspaper ran this presumptuous headline: “God isn’t fixing this.” But he is. Our minds are just too puny and our memories too short to appreciate what God is doing. God uses troubled times to “test the children of men” (v. 4) and purify his people’s faith. In troubled times God also forces us to remember the coming of the great Day of Judgment. Some heartaches only heaven can cure. Sin is so terrible that without hell justice remains unanswered. By thinking of the restoration of all things Paul pressed “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).