When I was eight weeks pregnant with my son, my doctor took one look at the ultrasound and told me that he was not going to live. She said to give her a call when the miscarriage started and I left the office with an ultrasound bill and a lump in my throat.
Despite the sick feeling in my heart and the devastation I felt, I wanted to cling to Christ and glorify God.
A verse kept ringing through my head: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). How could I count it joy that my doctor told me my son would soon die? James wasn’t just saying “rejoice despite your trial”; he was saying “rejoice because of your trial.” Where could I turn to help me obey this command from the heart?
Songs to Sing Under Dark Clouds
I turned to the Psalms for comfort and wisdom, and I invite all who are walking through difficult circumstances to do the same. The Psalms give us the tools to train our minds to rejoice in all circumstances. Have you ever faced trouble and wished you understood how to count it joy? Have you wondered how you can actually be happy to see a storm cloud hovering over your life? The Psalms prepare us to treasure Christ through suffering, and train our hearts and minds to bring God glory and find joy in all things.
If you are slandered or betrayed, train your heart to say, “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:4). If you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, train your heart to say, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). When you are facing financial trouble, train your heart to say, “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:6–7).
Training our hearts and minds with the Psalms gives us the perspective to be able to welcome trials with the open-armed joy that James talks about. The Psalms teach us how to live out our purpose to glorify God, even with our troubles.
Through Sorrow to Praise
Throughout the Psalms, we see the writers go through times of confusion, times of grieving and lament, and times of rejoicing. In all those circumstances, they show us how to respond in a way that brings glory to God. They show us how to be completely satisfied in God, how to make God our portion and our strength through times of lament and confusion.
Psalms of Lament
It might seem strange that lamenting would bring glory to God. When David was hiding from Saul, he wrote these lyrics:
With my voice I cry out to the Lord;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way! (Psalm 142:1–3)
Look at the example David gives us when fleeing from those who wanted to kill him. He shows us how to talk to God when we are overwhelmed. He pours out his complaints to God, and he finds comfort in knowing that God is directing his path. When we are walking through hardship, we can still be honoring God. When we direct our complaints to God instead of to all the people around us, we are showing God that we believe he is the only one who can help.
Psalms of Confusion
Many places in the Psalms, the writer is confused. For example, in Psalm 13, he asks desperate questions.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1–2)
Have you ever felt like crying out to God, “What is happening? And where are you?” Even these perplexed and desperate cries can bring honor and glory to God. God wants us to search for answers in him, trusting his timing and revelation. When we pursue God more than our most precious things — our work, our family, our friends, our health, our homes, our money — he is glorified. When we let go of all the things we naturally trust in, when we find our only comfort in God, then our confusion finds peace to wait for help from God.
Psalms of Praise
The Psalms train our hearts to praise God. Learning about God’s character is the first step to knowing how to praise him. We can’t praise God without knowing what he is like. The Psalms tell us that God is kind, patient, caring, merciful, attentive, beautiful, and holy.
The Psalms show us how to praise God for who he is and for what he has done. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1). When we work with gladness and gratitude, our life becomes a gift to God that glorifies him.
When we praise him during times of blessing, we are reminding ourselves that he is the one who has poured out goodness on us. When we praise him during times of trouble, we are opening our eyes to see all the good he is creating from our ashes. When we praise him for our trials, we acknowledge that he is using our trials as his tool.
Soundtrack of Faith
As it turned out, my doctor was wrong about my son’s story. For seven long months, she continued to predict miscarriage, stillbirth, or a severely malnourished preemie. But God heard our prayers, and our boy was born healthy and strong at full term.
During my pregnancy, I found so much encouragement by steeping my mind in the Psalms. If you are walking through a trial, I encourage you to do the same. Read a psalm every day. Pray the Psalms when you talk to God. Sing a psalm when your emotions need to be redirected. Recite the Psalms to yourself when you are discouraged, and let the words lead you back to Christ. Listen to the Psalms being sung. Make them the soundtrack of your life.
When the Psalms get into your bones, your heart will be strong enough to see the joy in all trials. You will know how to react when you are confused or disappointed or lost. The Psalms are a good blueprint for glorifying God in all situations.