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The Blues

Question - What do the following list of Psalms have in common? Psalm 6; Psalm 10; Psalm 12; Psalm 13; Psalm 17; Psalm 22; Psalm 25; Psalm 26; Psalm 29; Psalm 31; Psalm 42; Psalm 43; Psalm 51; Psalm 53; Psalm 60; Psalm 69; Psalm 77; Psalm 79; Psalm 80; Psalm 82; Psalm 88:1-8; Psalm 94; Psalm 117; Psalm 130; Psalm 137; and Psalm 141?

Answer - They are part of a personal or shared “playlist” of the blues; Psalms of Lament and vocalizations of passionate grief, sorrow, or struggle. They introduce the common believer to the great questions of life beginning with probing questions such as: “Why?”, “When?”, “How long God?”, and “Where are You?”. Unbelievable as it seems, about 40% of all the Psalms invite us to sing the blues! What does this say about our lives of faith? What evidence do we gather about the relationship between the people of God and suffering? Rather than polished and perfect prayers God invites us to share in raw and honest conversation with Him. It takes no theology degree or words sanitized from complaint, question, pain, trouble, oppression or suffering. What it does require is transparency and honest expression before the God who knows us intimately.

I am so thankful that God does not abandon me in my moments of depression. Brokenness in ministry is just as real as the wounds caused in every other sphere of work and humanity. To live is to be involved in spiritual warfare. It is to be targeted by the evil one bent on destroying everything precious to us and causing us to bleed spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and resulting in even physical losses. To be involved in local church life is to be exposed to the underbelly of fellowship and the reality that we are all imperfect people in need of grace. It is grieving declining numbers in attendance and participation and feeling like a professional failure. It is the constant and steady demand of weekly, monthly, and yearly deadlines and the cumulative small cuts unconsciously made by well-meaning friends and family. It is praying for an assembly you come to dearly love - and sometimes are left to wonder if they pray for you too.

And like the Psalms of Lament that we are blessed with, life and ministry may stumble into expressions of suffering but have amazing potential to end with glory. Usually, songs of lament may seem like nothing more than sour, negative complaints, but we should always note where they end up. With the toxicity of bitterness and infection expressed - these blues end on a positive, faith-filled note. And when we’re real with God? We receive a fresh perspective to assert as the psalmist in Psalm 13:6: “I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.”

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