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Why I Sing Psalms
December 21, 2015
This sponsored post was prepared by Rosaria Butterfield on behalf of Crown and Covenant.
Despised by my girlfriend but beloved by my God.
As a postmodern professor, I had warred against the binary oppositions and metanarratives of a biblical worldview, but after reading the Bible in completion many times for myself, and discussing it in honesty with Christian neighbors and colleagues, something happened. The Bible got to be bigger inside me than I; it ignited the “expulsive power of a new affection” (to quote Thomas Chalmers). Here I was, a living epistle whose new life now teetered on the brink of those ideas that I had railed against for years. I had taught thousands of college students that sexuality and gender were social constructs, but the God I now met and loved made it clear in His word: Being born male or female comes with moral responsibilities and constraints.
The gospel remade me. It came in exchange for the life I had once loved, not in addition to it. Through it, I met the triune God who intervenes in history and supernaturally controls all things. But when I stumbled around trying to find Him in the rubble of my ruined career and my bankrupt body of friends, all I grasped was darkness and the wind.
God gave me a Bible-believing, Psalm-singing church to become the family that I lost in this gospel exchange. My new brothers and sisters in this church modeled for me two life practices that have been my daily companions since the early hours of my Christian rebirth: reading the Bible in big chunks and singing the Psalms. God daily uses these simple practices to restore and remake me through His grace.
As I stumbled around, awkward and uncomfortable in the new creation that I had become, longing for the old days, the old me, the old habits, the old friends, I at least could stumble forward with eyes of faith when I sang the Psalms. The Psalms are prayers, but often unlike my own, each psalm is a prayer to God through eyes and words of faith. Each psalm uses eyes of faith to see the agony, and not eyes of doubt. Singing through the affliction and danger with eyes of faith became one way that God tutored, taught, and modeled for me how to face my fear with God at my side.
God’s word is powerful—a double-edged sword—and singing the Psalms roots God’s word deep inside your memory. The Psalms have been God’s most severe and merciful crucible in my life, stirring the pot of what the Puritans called experiential godliness—a sanctifying path by which you daily enter to those mysteries of Christ’s kingdom. Singing the Psalms makes you lean hard into its biblical wisdom, experiential profit, and transforming beauty. It just might make you wonder if Colossians 3:16 actually means what it says: Sing Psalms and let the Word of Christ dwell in you.
Singing intertwines text with tune: It makes you dwell a little longer in the hard and vulnerable places as you hear your very own voice settle your wandering heart as you sing sentiments like this to God: “The Lord’s the portion of my cup, and my inheritance; You’ve given me the lot I have, kept in Your providence” (Psalm 16:5). Singing makes you imbibe, inherit, and own. The Psalms inhere in you. They express things you feel but were afraid to say: “My God, my God to You I cry, O why have You forsaken me? Why are you far from giving help and from my agonizing plea?” (Psalm 22:1). When you sing this to God, you know that while it is sinful to complain about God, it is sanctifying to complain to Him when in faith we model Jesus, singing what He did.
Singing the Psalms grants you the intimacy of a suffering daughter with the Father who has loved you from before the world’s foundations. This relationship comes through the Savior brother who is praying and singing as He intercedes for you right this very moment.
Singing psalms is real-time intimacy and give us the gospel grace that we daily need, because singing psalms uses your own body, your voice, the rising and falling of your own breath, to project forward all struggle and pain and loss and gain and profit and joy onto Christ. When you sing together as a family during family devotions after the evening meal, you watch your very small children and your special needs children singing from memory the Psalms before they are able to read them. You flash forward to what it would mean to someday have dementia but still, even in that compromised state, have the Psalms as your daily companions. And when you sing together in worship with your brothers and sisters in Christ, many voices lifting up many words of Christ, you experience a taste of the victory to come, even as you know the intense suffering of today. Psalms are—and have always been—the hymnbook of the church under persecution.
To learn more about Rosaria Butterfield, Crown and Covenant, and the Psalms visit crownandcovenant.com.