I've been leading a study of the book of Psalms at our church for the past two months and decided to write the course myself rather than popping in a DVD and using someone else's material for discussion. "Why?", you ask. Because I thought I would learn more from the additional study this would require. Boy was I right - for two reasons. First, I certainly learned a lot more by writing my own material. Second, it took a LOT OF ADDITIONAL STUDY. I'm now somewhat of an authority on how much I don't know about Psalms, how much more there is to learn, and how I have grown through preparing this "tip-of-the-iceberg" study to share with the class.
You may be surprised to learn that, while there are some beautiful and comforting passages in Psalms, many of them are more disturbing than consoling. For every "The Lord is my shepherd," there is a "How long O Lord?!" Take a quick look at these verses Psalms 13:1; 37:15; 79:1; 89:46.
But, that's not the end of it. "How long, O Lord" is often followed by thankfulness as life is restored to a better place. The ebb and flow of life expressed in these ancient texts sounds remarkably familiar to me. The rhythm of life does indeed seem to follow this recurring pattern of stability, disorientation, and renewal.
While I bristle when people use the Bible as some kind of spiritual "self-help" tool, there is certainly much that is helpful in this pattern. Without being simplistic, here are some simple but powerful principles that I've noticed.
This rhythm is normal. It's not just you so don't take it personally.
This rhythm implies movement. Though the valleys may seem to last forever you are never standing still in them.
Every phase offers a chance to grow.
You are more resilient than you think. You can get through the valley, but your resolve and your character will be tested, perhaps as never before.
Of course, there is much more to learn from Psalms and from life itself. What would you add to the list above? I'd really love to hear from you.