God created us as humans, in His image. This means we experience the wide range of human emotions: From high happiness to deep despair. And everything in between. And God understands this — and the song-book of the Bible reflects this:
“The LORD is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.” — Psalm 103:13,14
That is why His Spirit inspired the Psalms, to ensure that we sing songs reflecting the range of human emotions. This makes God’s song-book so authentic, so down to earth, so relevant to all Christians in all our moods. The circumstances of life bring about the whole range of human emotions. All these are known by God, and He wants us to know that He understands and feels with us.
With the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, God became human like us. He experienced the same emotions that all other humans feel. Among the weeping crowd at Lazarus’ tomb, He wept with them as “A deep anger welled up within Him, and he was deeply troubled. Then Jesus burst into tears. And the crowd recognised this as His identifying love for Lazarus.” — John 11:33-36. Jesus was an emotionally balanced man.
That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired so many emotional Psalms for His people to sing. (I found it helpfully refreshing to read these Psalms in the New Living Translation.]
When we feel the sharp cuts on deceitful lies of those who hate us, we identify with the emotions expressed in Psalm 52.
When we feel the ecstasy of romantic love, Psalm 45 captures our mood.
When our enemies cause anguish and sorrow, and we feel God is looking the other way, we discover Psalm 13 and are encouraged to trust in God’s unfailing love.
When someone ruins my reputation with groundless accusations, I sing Psalm 4 with fresh meaning.
When we’re enjoying a nature ramble through beautiful countryside, we readily burst into the song of Psalm 19.
When we experience success, and God gives us our hearts’ desire, we sing Psalm 21 with a wide smile lighting our faces.
When Covid restricts our fellowship with other believers in church service, we can identify with the emotions of Psalm 42.
When we feel a mixture of love for God and hatred for people, Psalm 139 captures our confused emotions better than we could express them ourselves.
Why then are most of our contemporary worship songs uni-emotional? An endless repetition of joyful praises? Why don’t we sometimes sing sad, angry, confused songs in Church? If God can inspire such songs for His holy songbook, why do we pretend that life is all perfume and roses? Why can’t we sing authentic songs to God and to one another?
Yes, the Psalms do include many upbeat praise songs. But they also include songs that express the darker, gloomier emotions of our real lives in this real world. The Psalms are emotionally balanced. They are true to real life in the presence of our real God, who knows all our real emotions first-hand.
That could be one reason why the New Testament specifically directs us to sing PSALMS, as well as Hymns and Spiritual Songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). God wants our songs to be sung in the context of our real emotions. Psalms ensure that we balance our high and our low feelings in His all-knowing, caring presence.
This column was prompted by Walter Riggans’ article Can we not Mourn with those who Mourn? in https://theology.worldea.org/evangelical-review-of-theology/