When Life is a Roller Coaster – The Psalms Bring Sanity
SEPTEMBER 16, 2021
by Barbara Juliani
A month ago, my father-in-law passed away after a long illness. Three weeks ago, I fell and broke my collar bone. Last week we spent at the beach enjoying our children and grands (Nineteen of us including three babies!). Sunday my husband tested positive for COVID, so now he and I are quarantined together and our whole extended family had to get tested. Monday was our second oldest son’s 36th birthday, but he was not celebrating with us—he is with Jesus in heaven. It’s been a roller coaster of a month.
I’m sure that your life can also be a like a roller coaster—with your own disorienting mixture of sadness, suffering, anxiety, frustration, and even joy. How do we remember in the midst of all that happens that we live in God’s world where he is good and does good? How do we reorient ourselves every day to the truth of God’s love for us in Jesus? I pray the psalms. They are Jesus’s prayer book and the prayer book of God’s people for centuries. They can be yours as well.
I have been praying through the psalms for the last thirty years using the same Bible. My prayer requests and God’s answers (all with dates) are sprinkled through the psalms in my old, falling apart, study Bible. The psalms have become my personal prayer book through joy, thanksgiving, anxiety, guilt, anger, grief, and sorrow. They have been my faithful companions on my journey with Jesus—giving me words for my troubles, reminders of God’s care, and promises to rely on.
THE PSALMS ARE PRAYERS OF FAITH
How can the psalms become your faithful companion too? Here are some of the things I have learned about the psalms that have kept me praying and singing them. I hope that they encourage you to do the same.
THE PSALMS ARE PRAYERS OF FAITH, AND AS THE FAITHFUL PRAY THEM, THEY GROW IN FAITH.
This is not an instant process. The Psalms are long experiences condensed into just a few words. I picture them as a condensed version of weeks of struggle. As I have prayed the psalms, I have felt disappointment. I wondered where God was. I wondered how I could possibly say I knew him when it felt like I had a ton of bricks on my chest. But in going to God, in crying out, he did answer—my faith in his love, care, and kindness grew.
THE PSALMS ARE PRAYERS OF FAITH—FAITH NOT IN OURSELVES, BUT IN GOD’S POWER AND GOODNESS.
If you read the psalms you will find some doubts—questions about God’s presence, his help, and whether or not he would deliver from danger. But in the entire book of Psalms, there isn’t a single line that doubts God’s existence, his creation, or his power to act now in the world. All these prayers. All these psalmists pouring out their hearts to God. They don’t always know what God is up to. They don’t know why they are suffering. They don’t know why their enemies are getting away with murder. But one thing they do know: their only hope is God himself.
THE PSALMS ARE PRAYERS OF FAITH—WE PRAY THEM WITH JESUS AND TO JESUS.
When Jesus lived on this earth as a man, he prayed the psalms in faith just as we do. He experienced all the emotions we experience, yet without ever turning from his love for God and his love for people. Do you want to walk with Jesus? Pray the psalms with him and to him. He will meet you. Your love for him will grow.
THE PSALMS ARE PRAYERS OF FAITH, AND WE WAIT BY FAITH FOR GOD TO ANSWER.
The faith of those who wrote the psalms was in their all-powerful God who created the world and delivered them from deadly peril. Like the psalmists who became confident by remembering God’s deliverance at the Red Sea and in the wilderness, we remember God’s power and deliverance. They hoped for a deliverer, but we have the historical reality of Jesus. God himself has come as the man Jesus to save his people.
We have the cross, the resurrection, and Jesus in heaven at the right hand of the Father. We have Jesus our brother ever alive to intercede for us, and we have his gift of God’s presence in the Holy Spirit. This is not a spiritual allegory. The man Jesus really did walk on this earth. He really did die a cruel and undeserved death, and he really did rise again. That historical reality is proof, no matter what else might happen, that God’s love doesn’t fail. Because God’s love doesn’t fail, we can pray and wait in faith.
THE PSALMS ARE PRAYERS OF FAITH, AND WE PRAY THEM BY FAITH DAILY.
There are many different ways that you can incorporate the psalms into your everyday life. Some read one psalm in the morning and one psalm at night. Others have noticed that since there are 150 psalms, you can read five psalms each day for the thirty days of the month. For months that have thirty-one days you can read through Psalm 119 again.
This is the method I use—I multiply the day’s date by five and read the five psalms that end in the number I get. Day 1 means I read Psalms 1–5, day two I read Psalms 6–10, etc. I read through each day’s selection, stopping to underline, write down prayer requests and dates, and rewriting a portion (or two) as my own prayer in a journal. Do I do this every day? No, but I don’t worry if I miss a few days. I just start back using the current date. After decades of praying through the psalms, I have read all of them many times.
THE PROMISES OF JESUS
Jesus promised his disciples (including us) that he would not leave us as orphans, but send his Comforter, the Holy Spirit to be our daily helper. The Comforter speaks to us using God’s words. Praying the psalms will guide your prayers and will also fill your mind with God’s words to you. You will be comforted, convicted, strengthened, and guided as you pray them. May the psalms help you to walk by faith, faithfully, until your Good Shepherd brings you home to glory.