/ Andrew Kerr

Praying Pain to Praise

A lot has been made about the general drift of the mood music of the Psalter: a strong case has been made that, as we travel from Psalms 1-150, lament gives way to lauding. Book 1 (1-42), in general, eavesdrops on David's tears. Book 5 (107-150) concludes the hymnal in a rapture of sacred applause: as creation stands to its feet and raises up Jehovah's praise, the 'Big Picture' emerges: at a macroscopic level, all Psalter pain start-outs are meant to end in praise.

At a microscopic level too, the same principle appears. Within many (if not most) of its individual prayers and hymns, the same tune is played as songs flow from ache to anthem. A hidden thread-like principle is woven into the very fabric of the Psalter - as its pulse crests and troughs, the very death-resurrection breath of Christ is exhaled, as the Son of Jesse sings in the Spirit of his Lord.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands - Psalm 63:1-4.

I'm glad, after burying my mother yesterday, that birdsong and blue sky arose to greet me this new day. Those gifts of common grace helped fill the internal void of grief. It was nice to ascend from my study, via a savored mug of French-Blend, only to bump into my daughter on the staircase, whose eyes were also welling-up with fresh, warm, secretions from her lacrimal glands (I knew in her exchanged, teary-eyed, look she really misses her granny too).

So, there was nothing else I could do, but proceed to my bedroom: I determined as I knelt, through heavy sobs and tears, to refocus my grief and have my soul and mind converted to gratitude - maybe if I'd been more clued into the Psalter I might have done that sooner. What a debt I owe to my God who gave my parents. What love they rained on me as parental ministers of God's love.

And, as I took a lead from Messiah's heart depicted by David, resurrection took place and my sorrow changed to song. I'm sure there are many saints who know all kinds of pain at present (death-valleys are dark even with the Shepherd close). Yet this is one of the huge advantages of devotion prayed through Psalms: whatever burden we bear, whether tears, sick, trials or hate, relief is at hand as we pick up David's harp and sing-out pain to praise.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God - Psalm 42:5-6.

I guess, for some of my readers, darker days are just ahead - the father-in-law of the undertaker who helped with my mother's funeral was suddenly taken away by Covid-19 on the evening before her burial. However dark it appears, and whatever anguish you face, if you are able to give thanks, it will soothe some sting from hurt. If it isn't quite a Psalm, Job also helps us bow-out life by sounding a higher note:

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD" - Job 1:20-21.

God loans us life for a while so we may offer it back with thanks. May God, in His grace, help you pray your pain to praise - in all this, the Psalter will prove your very consoling, comforting, friend. It's probably because you hear Jesus in its voice.

Bless you brothers and sisters - in the Name of our exalted, crucified, Lord - He is risen from the dead - to be with King Jesus is certainly "Better by Far"!

Andrew Kerr

Andrew Kerr

Pastor of Knockbracken in Belfast - Husband of Hazel, Dad to Rebekah, Paul and Andrew, Lover of Skiing, Walker of Lucy (our Bernese Mountain Dog), with a Passion for OT - in Deep Need of Grace

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