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When I was in third grade, my grandma gave me a red leather Bible. I carried it to church every Sunday and tried to read it even though the King James Version was way over my head!
Something deep within me knew that just like the glue on the Bible’s binding held its pages together, the truth in its pages would hold me together too—and it did.
If you’ve been hanging out with us for a while on the 4:13 Podcast, you know that my world fell apart when I turned 15. I became blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa. I could no longer read the words in my Bible because I couldn’t see them. But the truth in its pages continued to hold me together.
Now, as a grown-up blind woman, I use other versions of the Bible more than King James. I also listen to the Bible on audio and through apps on my computer and phone instead. (By the way, my hands-down favorite is Dwell. You must check it out if you aren’t familiar with it. Love it.) But no matter how I experience the Bible, it always has the same effect on me.
It comforts me. It challenges me. It directs me. It blesses me. It gives me words to pray. No matter what I read, I hear God’s voice and feel His love.
And, sister, there’s no other book in the Bible where I feel more loved, understood, and closer to God than the book of Psalms. I want that for you too!
In this episode of the 4:13 Podcast, you’re going to get a big picture view of Psalms. Like 30,000 feet above the earth kind of view, so you can see its magnificence. Then, you’ll see it through the eyes of your heart and feel the heartbeat of God that pulses through it. And, finally, you’ll learn a practical way to make it meaningful and accessible.
Friend, you’ll find this informative, inspiring, and—if you let it—downright life-changing!
A Big Picture View of Psalms
- Who. The book of Psalms is unique because the majority of it is people openly and honestly communicating with God. David wrote around 73 of the psalms. The rest were written by several authors, including Solomon, Asaph, Ethan, Heman, the sons of Korah, and Moses. There are also some psalms with unknown authors.
- What. The psalms are songs. The words survived, but the music didn’t, so we don’t know what the music sounded like. We only know that the words were originally set to music because of the superscription at the opening of most psalms that says, “director of music.” Psalms is also a book of numbers as in rhythm, meter, and rhyme.
- When. The book of Psalms was written 3,000 years ago by people who lived lives that looked very different from life in 2020. Yet, the aches, longings, questions, and worship of these writers could just as easily have been written today.
- Where. Numbers also matter in the overall structure of Psalms because it’s divided into parts. Psalms is divided into five books. They’re not thematic, but I tried to title each part, each book, with a broad, general theme. (Sister, this is not Seminary, this is just one woman’s reading and theming!)
Book 1: God beside us. Psalms 1–41.
Book 2: God going before us. Psalms 42–72.
Book 3: God around us. Psalms 73–89.
Book 4: God above us. Psalms 90–106.
Book 5: God among us. Psalms 107–150.
- Why. What every book in Psalms has in common is God. He’s the big “why!” He’s the main character of the Bible, and He’s the main character of Psalms. Each of the five books follows a theological assumption that when it’s all said and done, God reigns, He’s in control, and it will end well when He is in it. Every psalm travels the roller coaster of our emotions but ends with the foundation of God’s superiority. All end with blessing the Lord or praising Him.
How Psalms Can Draw You Closer to God
- They say what you’re feeling and express your emotions. John Calvin once called the Psalms, “An Anatomy of All the Parts of the Soul.” The Psalms truly reflect each part of our souls, don’t they? They put into words how we feel—even when we don’t know how exactly we feel!For example, last year, I was in a difficult situation where a friend lied and betrayed me. I had trouble knowing exactly how to feel or where to put my feelings. So, I used Psalms to guide my heart, thoughts, and tongue. Psalm 37 is what I went to over and over again. It gave me a way to know what I felt and say what I felt, and then it led me to the right response. You can read Psalm 37 in full here.
Here are some more psalms that can be a resource for you. I’ve listed the struggle first, followed by the psalm:
- If you’re feeling like evil is getting the upper hand and you can’t get a break, read Psalm 73.
- If you’re grieving or feeling vulnerable, then pray through Psalm 25.
- If you’re feeling despair because nothing is changing, then read Psalm 77.
- If you need a reminder that God is listening when you don’t understand his silence, read Psalm 13.
- And, if you feel like me—worried about the shape of the world, then Psalm 11 will remind you that God is on His throne!
Psalms can be your best resource for mental health! Knowing somebody understands is affirming. And, knowing that God cared enough to include all your messy emotions in Psalms esteems you and validates your emotions. Psalms teaches you that the statement “you shouldn’t feel that way” is a bunch of bunk.
- They speak truth to your feelings and shape your emotions. When you read Psalms, you hear David and others talking to their souls. You see the authors doing this in the “O my soul” verses. For example, Psalm 103:1 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” and Psalm 57 says, “Awake, my soul!” Those are psalms that speak right to your soul and tell you what to do.Psalm 42 goes even further and teaches you to ask your soul questions. “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” (Psalm 42:5). If Calvin called Psalms the soul’s anatomy, then using Psalms to ask your soul questions is like examining and then doing surgery on your soul—your emotions, beliefs, and attitudes.
It’s relevant they talked to themselves because so do we. So, don’t just read the Psalms, let them read you. Let them help you understand your emotions and let them help you speak truth to those emotions.
How to Make Psalms Personal
Even though I can’t see, I used to love color and still do! So, if I could see the Scripture, I would color code each Psalm or at least the relevant verses within each psalm. Here’s a suggestion of possible colors and categories:
- Gold for psalms about who God is, His majesty, glory, etc.
- Pink for promises of God. These are the “I will” or “God will” kind of verses.
- Brown for dark emotions because it’s the color of chocolate. Enough said.
- Green for positive emotions because it’s the color of hope, possibility, and growth.
- Red for prayers for help from God because it’s like sounding an alarm.
Make the book of Psalms in your Bible look like a rainbow that will draw your eye to what you need when you need it.
Friend, His word will renew you and always lead you closer to Him. And remember, whether your day is full of praise or full of pain, no matter what you feel or what you face, you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.
Books, Bible Studies, and Music by Jennifer Rothschild
- Psalm 23: The Shepherd With Me
- 66 Ways God Loves You
- “Gaze Upon the Beauty” song on Walking By Faith: The Music Captured Live CD