I’ve found over the years that every one of us struggles in our relationship with God. Some of those struggles are small, and some of them can be epic battles that would make for a great movie. Some of those struggles are still going on to this day. I’ve also come to realize that many of us not only need to hear that but also need to hear that it’s okay. That our relationship with God is going to have highs and lows but that we should never feel as though, if we’re not frolicking in fields of lilies toward candy cane plains with butterflies flapping their wings all around us, there’s something wrong with us. Or, even worse, . . . that we’re “bad” followers of Christ. The truth is that following God can be messy. Not because God drags us into messy situations but because we find that our messy selves follow us into whatever situation we’re in. The truth for me is that it feels as though half the time I don’t even know what I’m doing. So, how in the world am I to know what God wants of me? There are times when I’m angry with God and can find bitterness creeping into my heart because he seems to be ignoring my plea. I long to be held by him but just “know” that won’t happen unless I die or he comes again—whichever happens first.
Yes, our relationship with God has its highs and lows, but for some reason we’ve morphed into a Christian culture that feels as though our space with God needs to be refurbished so that it’s always cheery and on good terms with God and everyone else. But whose life and relationships really are that way? Mine aren’t, and I certainly have never met anyone else who can say theirs is. And so, what do we do? Are we to live a false life and exist in a false narrative with God (which wouldn’t work because he knows us better than we know ourselves)? Do we tell people to just “pray about it,” assuring them that “it will all work out” (praying is great—but those kinds of clichés have never been helpful to me)? Or can we actually wrestle with a holy God and not walk away with the limp of all limps (think Jacob in Genesis 32:22–32)? My take on this: let’s be real and authentic. I affirm that we can legitimately wrestle with God, all the while knowing this in no way makes us a horrible, subpar, or “bad” Christian. If we affirm that God knows us already, then why hide? And if we affirm that God is big and wise enough to handle sin and death and resurrection—then I’m sure he can shoulder the burden of my wrestling with him (Job reminds us of that). I say let’s enter into the truths expressed by the psalmists and work to understand their wrestling with God.
The psalms are a roadmap to an authentic relationship with God. Through the experiences of others, we are invited to share an insider’s glimpse into their sorrow, joy, fear, anger, and a whole host of other emotions. When we read and engage with the psalms, our eyes become open not only to the psalmists’ plight but to the constancy of our God. Through the psalms we are given the freedom and encouragement to allow the space in which we’re currently residing—whatever that may look like—to be lifted up to God above, who hears us, knows us, and has already answered our deepest pleas and needs through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within each of our hearts.
It was for this reason that I began writing these reflections. What started as a simple blog on the psalms years ago for the youth and leaders of the MIDWEST B.A.S.I.C. Bible Camp in Iowa has developed into something much bigger. My prayer for you is that—wherever you may find yourself in life, you will carve out time each day to spend with the God who loves you and has given his life as a ransom for you. That no matter where today (or any other today) may find you, you will make sure to spend time alone in his company. What you’ll find in the following pages are the following:
- An encouragement to read each of the 150 psalms.
- A bit of history, context, and meaning of the psalm (if the information is available).
- Words and reflections that stood out for me (my own wrestlings and wonderings).
- Three questions for each psalm that encourage you to dig a little deeper into the text and listen for its voice in your life.
I pray that this book will remind you of the freedom you have to be in an authentic relationship with God and that my own reflections and challenges will help you navigate these treasures and give breath and breadth to your own dialogue with God. Worship journal, anyone?
I pray that this book may remind you that, no matter the space in which you find yourself, God loves you more than you will ever know—so much that he offered the life of his own sinless Son, Jesus Christ, in sacrifice for yours.
I pray that, as you walk this journey with me, the Holy Spirit will continue to open up your heart to his life-giving Word—a Word reminding us daily, with every stroke of the pen, that these writers thrust us forward into God’s limitless love and the hope he offers.
Finally, I pray that you will be reminded that nothing can remove from you the love of God and the hand he has placed on your life. You cannot undo the cross, you cannot undo Christ’s justification, and you cannot undo God’s love. So, no matter the wrestling or the limp, no matter the scrapes or the bruises, no matter the words uttered in the throes of anger or angst—remember that God can handle it . . . and that he will not think any less of you, his child!
Thank you for taking this journey with me through the book of Psalms. My prayer is that this book will offer you an opportunity to wrestle with God through engagement with my simple words and reflections.