It's Not Until...
God's word is so rich and full, we will never be able to exhaust its wisdom, instruction, correction, comfort, encouragement and restorative power in this life. There is much in Scripture that we will never experientially appropriate into our lives until God has placed us in a particularly difficult situation in life. There are many Psalms that we neglect until we find ourselves in the difficult circumstances of life. It's not until we go through the trials of life commensurate with those of the Psalmist that will we ever draw strength from the imprecatory Psalms and the Psalms of lament.
Believers rightly love to read the well-known and beloved Messianic Psalms. While all the Psalms are Messianic Psalms, we love reading those explicit Messianic Psalms (e.g. 1, 2, 8, 16, 22, 23, 24, 45, 89 and 110) for the strengthening of our faith. We also love reading the great Psalms of repentance and pardon (e.g. Psalm 51, 103 and 130). We are familiar with the creational Psalms ( e.g. Psalm 8, 19, 104 and 139). We have cross-stitching or calligraphy prints of portions of these Psalms hanging on the walls of our homes. We encourage one another with verses from them in our conversations. However, most believers pass over many of the Psalms that God has breathed out for the nourishment of our souls. If we are honest, we have found it burdensome to read the Psalms of lament or the imprecatory Psalms. I seriously doubt that there is one person who has any part of Psalm 88--the darkest Psalm--hanging in a frame on their wall of their home. One simple reason for our neglect of these Psalms is that God had not yet placed us in a situation in which our soul finds the comfort and hope in them.
God opens the comfort and hope of certain portions of His word to our souls, when we suffer some particularly difficult trial. Such was the case for me when my mother passed away. Those Scriptures that spoke of the reality and sting of death and the hope of the resurrection were all experientially theoretical, so to speak, until I faced the death of my mother. Likewise, those portions of the Psalms that speak of betrayal, injustice, opposition and the valley of the shadow of death are all theoretical until we experience such trials in our lives. We learn to love the honesty and the heart felt agony of the Psalmist, when we find ourselves in similar circumstances. An affinity develops when we hear heart cries of the Psalmist echo against our own heart cries. We learn to pray in the same way in which he prayed, when the Spirit worked in his soul in those moments of despair and desperation. We come to know that another has been through what we are now going through and that he found hope and strength in God and His promises.
The Apostle Paul prepares the people of God for suffering on behalf of Christ by reminding them of that the God of all comfort will comfort them in their suffering so that they will be able to comfort others with the same comfort with which they are being comforted by God (2 Cor. 1:3-7). There is a purpose in our suffering, just as there was a purpose in the suffering of the Psalmist. The suffering and the subsequent comfort serve the purpose of benefiting those who will suffer after us.
Of course, there was One who experienced every affliction, betrayal, trial, opposition, oppression--even unto death itself--that we read of in the Psalms. Jesus is the true and greater Psalmist who cried out to His Father in His moment of soul-affliction in the Garden and in dereliction on the cross. He knew what it was to pray the Psalms of lament. He knew what it was to rely on His Father in the midst of the greatest of affliction. None of us will ever experience anything like that of the sinless Son of God. However, Scripture tells us that He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin, so that he can "sympathize" with us in our weakness (Heb. 4:16). We are never alone as we walk through the shadow of the valley of death (note that it is merely the shadow of the valley of death, as we go through the suffering). Jesus walked through the valley of death itself for us. The Father made him a curse on the cross when he removed the sting of death for us. In light of that, we cling to Christ as we suffer afflictions, betrayals, opposition and trials, knowing that he has done everything necessary to bring us through the valley and out into green pastures. We turn to the Psalms to draw comfort and instruction from them for our times of trial and suffering--knowing that Jesus also prayed them to His Father when he suffered.
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