The book of Psalms is the original hymnbook for the people of God. It is a collection of 150 prayers and songs that God’s people have used in Christian worship for millennia. The Psalms contain beautiful poetry, rich imagery, raw emotion, and biblical wisdom. Moreover, they are still as popular and useful today as they were thousands of years ago when they were originally written. Why? Because of the way in which the Psalms speak to our souls.
The Psalms teach us that our God is a not a God who is distant and disconnected from his creation. Rather, he is a personal God who is eager to draw near to his people and meet with them. The Psalms are a collection of encounters with God, each one written from a different perspective. Sometimes the psalmist is on the mountaintop, praising God in a season of blessing. Other times he is in the valley, crying out to God in the midst of his suffering. Sometimes the psalmist is preparing for battle, asking the LORD to still his fears and be his stronghold. Other times he is offering thanks to God for the victory that has been given. Sometimes the psalmist comes to God in confession, pleading with the LORD to forgive his sin. Other times he glories in the mercy and grace that God has shown him in response to his repentance.
Randy and I have had the privilege of preaching through some of the psalms over the past few months. And the more time I’ve spent in the psalms, especially over these last few weeks, the more convinced I am that no matter what situation you may find yourself in and no matter what heart issue you may struggle with, there is a psalm for you. Consider John Calvin’s thoughts on the Psalms, “What various and resplendent riches are contained in this treasury, it were difficult to find words to describe…I have been wont to call this book no inappropriately an anatomy of all parts of the soul; for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.” The Psalms speak to the intricate anatomy of our souls and the struggles therein.
The Bible teaches us that our sinful behaviors and attitudes reveal the condition of our hearts. Luke 6:45 puts it this way, “The good person out of the good treasures of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the heart his mouth speaks.” Dr. Garrett Higbe argues that, generally speaking, each of us exhibit attitudes that stem from one of four different types of sinful hearts: fear, despair, foolishness, and anger. You may visit all four at times, but most people tend to park themselves in one predominant type of heart. Below, I would like to briefly describe each of these hearts, explain how the Psalms offer biblical solutions to them, and then suggest some psalms to consider.
A Heart of Fear
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4
Someone with a heart of fear may struggle with anxiety, worry, people pleasing behavior, and/or avoidant tendencies. Their heart desires security, acceptance and peace, all of which can only be found in God himself. The Psalms have plenty to say to fearful people and they teach us that the antidote to fear is a greater trust in the Lord. He is our refuge and our stronghold. We must rest in him.
Helpful psalms to read, pray through, meditate on, and memorize: Psalm 23, 27, 34, 46, 61, 91
A Heart of Despair
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” – Psalm 43:5
Someone with a heart of despair may struggle with loneliness, depression, discontentment, and/or being self-conscious around others. Their heart desires comfort, affirmation, and escape. The Psalms teach that those who are prone to despair and depression need to find their hope in God alone. The things and people of this world will let us down, but God never will. We must hope in him. He will never fail us.
Helpful psalms to read, pray through, meditate on, and memorize: Psalm 25, 33, 43, 61, 72
A Heart of Foolishness
“God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water…My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food.” – Psalm 63:1,5a
Someone with a heart of foolishness may struggle with addictive behavior, deceit, selfishness, and/or a lack of self-control. Their heart desires pleasure and attention. The Psalms teach us that God alone must be the source of our satisfaction. This person needs to experience a greater thrill and satisfaction in God than they do in their sinful behaviours. Only he can truly satisfy the longings of our hearts.
Helpful psalms to read, pray through, meditate on, and memorize: Psalm 16, 32, 51, 63, 107, 115.
A Heart of Anger
“The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” – Psalm 103:19
Someone with a heart of anger may be critical, harsh, impatient, angry, and/or defensive. Their heart desires control, authority and power. When they don’t get what they want, they get angry. The Psalms remind us that God is sovereign over all things and rules according to his perfect will and plan. Those with a heart of anger need to surrender their wills, their wants, and their lives to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is in control, not us.
Helpful psalms to read, pray through, meditate on, and memorize: Psalm 24, 37, 90, 103
The solution to all of our heart problems is always found in God himself and in his Word. Those who are prone to fear, worry, and anxiety must learn to trust in God. Those who idolize the things of this world and indulge in addictive behavior need to find a greater satisfaction in God. Those who harbour bitterness and anger in their hearts have to surrender control over to God. And those who are prone to despair and depression must find their hope in God. The psalms may not explicitly speak to every sinful outward behaviour, but they certainly target the heart’s need for God himself. And in doing so, they give solutions to our struggles and revival to our souls.