By Juan R. Sanchez
We’ve all heard of the term “cabin fever.” In 2020, not only have we experienced it, we’ve updated our cultural dictionary with a new phrase: “Zoom fatigue.” The coronavirus has worn us down.
But there are added pastoral pressures these days: the division over the response to the coronavirus, disagreements over how to regather as a church, and, if that wasn’t enough, the racial tensions that have erupted in our cities.
I don’t know about you, pastor, but I’m exhausted: emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
How are we to endure in such times? To shepherd my own heart as well as my family and our church during this turbulent season, I’ve turned to the psalms.
I’ve found hope for our troubled times in the psalms of Scripture. Let encourage you in the same way. Here are four reasons to preach the psalms to yourself (and your church) in difficult days.
1. Psalms remind us true and lasting joy is found in obedience.
There are a number of wisdom psalms, each of which point out the difference between the path of righteousness that leads to life and the path of wickedness that leads to death.
It’s no accident that Psalms begin with establishing these two ways.
Psalm 1 sets the tone by stating that true joy is found in obedience. “How happy is the one whose … delight is in the Lord’s instruction … he meditates on it day and night” (Psalm 1:1, 2).
No matter what we may face as pastors, we must root our thinking in God’s Word. If our churches are to find joy in the Lord as they obey His Word, we must lead them in that obedience.
When the coronavirus confronted our church with difficult decisions, our elders met together. We wrote down Scripture passages that would guide our decision making.
Then, when we communicated news and updates to congregation, we were able to help them understand how we sought to ground our decisions in the way of the Lord.
Were we perfect in our decisions? No. But we sought to be faithful, and, because of that, our congregation was patient with us. True and lasting joy is found in obedience.
2. Psalms remind us of the value the Lord places on human life.
Psalm 8 is a poetic song about our place in God’s creation as His image bearers. God created us to represent Him on this earth by means of His character, His ways, and His kingdom.
Psalm 139 reminds us how intimate the Lord’s knowledge of us is. He is our creator, and He knows “my inward parts”… because He “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).
And Psalm 116 reminds us we are “valuable in the Lord’s sight,” and, therefore, He does not desire our death (Psalm 116:15).
Consequently, God established a plan from eternity by which He would give new life to all who believe in His Son.
There are two important principles at play here: the image of God and the worth of the people of God to Himself.
The principle of the image of God establishes the sanctity of all human life: born/unborn, young/old, rich/poor, black/white, Asian/Hispanic, educated/uneducated, citizen/immigrant.
The second principle establishes the oneness of the body of Christ based upon God’s salvation.
We need the psalms to remind us that no matter what our personal position is on specific government policies, all human beings have worth and dignity, and no matter what our background or ethnicity may be, in the church we are one by the gospel.
The result—we will value all human life, and we will treat all people with dignity, honor, and respect.
3. Psalms give us the language of lament.
The psalms give us a language for grieving, both alone and in community.
Psalm 42, for example, reminds us there are times when we feel God has abandoned us. And yet, when we look back on God’s past grace and consider His continuing grace, we know we can trust Him for future grace.
We need to learn how to grieve, and the psalms give the language of lament. They not only give us permission to share our complaints with God; they teach us how to complain before God.
But even as we bring our griefs and injustices to the Lord, we know He hears us, so we can trust Him.
4. Psalms teach us how to worship the Lord in difficult times.
Worship is our whole-person response to all God has revealed Himself to be for us in Christ.
True worship begins in the heart. “My soul, bless the Lord, and all that is within me …” (Psalm 103:1). The Lord hates heartless worship.
True worship is also focused on the name of the Lord: “bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1). The Lord has revealed who He is by His name, His nature, and His character.
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love” (Psalm 103:8).
No matter what we may face, no matter how difficult or grief-stricken we may be, when we understand God is with us and for us, the appropriate response is to trust and to worship: praise (Psalm 103) and thanksgiving (Psalm 116).
In Christ, God is with us and for us. This allows us to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Pastors, preach the psalms to yourselves. They remind us that the Lord who is with us is the Lord who is for us.
He not only guides us to green pastures and cool waters, He also guides us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23).
If God is for us, who can be against us? We need to remember this truth, not just in the turbulence of 2020, but each and every day of our lives.
JUAN R. SANCHEZ (@manorjuan) is the senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church. His most recent book is The Leadership Formula: Develop the Next Generation of Leaders in the Church.