Here are six ways that we can sing psalms that do not reflect our present reality.
1. Remember suffering Christians all over the world. When we sing “suffering psalms,” we can be praying for suffering Christians all over the world. We can turn these songs into intercessions for the persecuted in North Korea and Iraq.
2. Remember suffering Christians sitting beside us. It’s not just faraway Christians who are suffering; there are some in the same pew who need our words, our touch, and our practical help. These psalms remind us to reach out and reach into their painful world.
3. Remember what we deserve. Because of our sin, we’ve forfeited all rights to every comfort in this world. Therefore, every day of happiness, every day of painlessness, every day of sanity, is a day of grace and mercy. With such psalms we are therefore praising God for his undeserved favor every day.
4. Remember what we’ve been saved from (and to). These suffering Psalms give us an insight into eternal sufferings and therefore remind us that no matter how great our suffering in time, we’ve been saved from an eternity of much worse. In our pain, we also remember that, in God’s kindness, the day is coming when sighing and crying will be no more. And neither will these psalms.
5. Remember to prepare for trouble and trial. Although we may have days, years, and even decades of a relatively trouble-free life, we all eventually and inevitably will face tough times of aches and pains, of sighs and groans. Suffering psalms will then become our song. In the meantime, we can still sing them in a preparatory way, asking God to ready and equip us for such times when they do come.
6. Remember Jesus Christ. Whatever sufferings the psalmist experienced, they are nothing compared to what Jesus Christ endured on our behalf. What agonies of body, mind, and soul. What excruciating misery he passed through for sinners like you and me. He could and did sing this psalm as no other. We can therefore sing it in praise of Christ who suffered all this and worse in our place and on our behalf.
David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand.