Originally published Friday, 24 March 2017.
Have you ever turned to the Psalms during a time of emotional turmoil? Most believers have found comfort in the words of the psalmist because his descriptive prose seems to give voice to what they are feeling. Many of us have favorite psalms—perhaps even some we’ve memorized—which give us hope in the midst of sorrow, fear, loneliness, or grief.
If we were to study the Psalms in detail, we would notice certain patterns. In the darkest Psalms, the Psalms of Lament, we would find a common structure. I discuss those patterns in detail in my book, A Heart Set Free. But one pattern I want to point out today is the way the psalmist often referred to God as his salvation.
“Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness” (Psalm 51:14).
“Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love!” (Psalm 109:26).
“Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth” (Psalm 74:12).
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5).
On this side of redemptive history, we know that God has provided for our salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. After his resurrection, Jesus met some disciples along the road to Emmaus. They were talking about all that had taken place when Jesus was crucified and the hours after. Not realizing they were talking with the resurrected Christ, they said, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Luke goes on to tell us, “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (vs. 25-27). All those stories they had heard and read throughout their lives in God’s Word were about Jesus. He was the One they all pointed to. As the subtitle to The Jesus Story Book Bible says: “Every Story Whispers His Name.”
Even the Psalms.
What this means is: Jesus fulfills all the deepest cries of our heart. Jesus is God’s ultimate answer to all that the psalmist cried out for. Just as the psalmist turned to God as his salvation in the midst of his sorrow, grief, and fear, we also must turn to Christ as our salvation in our own emotional turmoil. And just as the psalmist reflected on who God is and what he has done, we too must dwell on all that God has done for us in Christ. Jesus came to do what we could not do. He came to live the life we could not live. He came to make a way for us to be restored back into right relationship with God. He came to redeem, restore, and make all things new.
When we fear, we can remember that Christ has conquered our greatest fear at the cross, eternal separation from God. As Romans 8 tells us “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (vs. 31-32). We can remember that Christ is with us. He is our comfort, strength, and hope in all our fears.
When we have sorrow, we can remember the Man of Sorrows, our Lord and Savior who bore our sorrows on the tree. When he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he was voicing his own lament. As he cried that lament, he was bearing our sins, receiving the just punishment we were due. In our sorrow, we can also remember that God catches our tears in a bottle and hears all our cries. We can remember that not one tear we shed is wasted; God will use each and every one for his glory and our good. But most of all, we can remember that there is coming a day where all our tears will be wiped away and sorrow will be no more. When Christ returns, all things will be made new.
When we have been rejected, we can remember that our Savior was rejected. As Isaiah 53 said “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” He was rejected by the people he came to save. He was abandoned by his closest friends at his darkest hour. He knows and understands what it is to be abandoned and alone. But because he went to the cross, we have been adopted into the family of God. We are part of an eternal community. With Christ as our brother and fellow heir, we will never be alone. He will never forsake or reject us.
When we experience loss in our life, whether it is the loss of a loved one or of a dream or of anything else, we can remember that our Savior knew loss. He knew grief. He wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. But because Christ lost his life for our sake, we gain new life. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). As Paul reminds us, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Whatever trial, hardship, or suffering we experience, Christ is our hope. He is the answer to all our pain and sorrow. As the writer to the Hebrews encourages us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Consider Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, the One who hears every cry of our heart and the One who answered those cries with a cry of his own: “It is finished!” (John 19:30).