Psalms 1: How I came to love the Psalms

I used to avoid the psalms. I loved OT narrative, just not the psalms.  The most common type of psalm (the laments) includes a lot of whining and complaining (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc.).  I had no enemies, so the imprecatory psalms (cursing psalms) felt harsh (35, 58, 109, 137).  Many of the praise psalms seem redundant (136).  I was always healthy, so the hypochondriac psalms focusing on illness (32, 38) didn’t connect with me.

But right about the time that I was assigned to teach the psalms in a course on Biblical Poetry, I started having heart problems.  When I went to see the doctor about a skin rash, the nurse said I had an irregular pulse. I was soon diagnosed with Arial Fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat).  Soon, I was on a first name basis with my cardiologist.  The cardiology nurses would ask me what I was doing there since I seemed too young to have serious heart problems.  I went on Coumadin (blood-thinner) to prevent blood clots (and to encourage bruising) and started taking beta-blockers (I never understood exactly why my betas needed to be blocked) which gave me persistent headaches.  I passed out three times, was hospitalized three times, was cardio-verted twice, had my chest shaved more times than I can count and finally underwent a cather ablation (basically shoving small tubes up my veins and arteries into my heart to calm/kill the places in my heart that
were causing the improper electrical impulses).

What Scripture did I read most during this year and a half period of constant health crisis?  Those whiny laments and hypochondriac psalms.  I don’t avoid the psalms anymore.

I’m going to start a series of blogs on the Psalms.  What types of psalms do you avoid?  Which specific psalms?  Why?


  1. I happen to love reading the Psalms, but I share a lot of your discomfort. I suppose the places the psalms make me most uncomfortable are when they call down curses on enemies or talk about dashing the heads of infants against stones. I’m also not always sure about what to do with the psalms that seem like bragging. The psalmist can go on and on about how blameless he is!

    Despite the challenges, the Psalms are such a comfort to me. I read and pray through a few Psalms every morning along with other scripture (I try to at least.) I especially love to hear them read, or better yet sung, in worship. Gathering for Morning Prayer service at church each day before work really transformed the way I experienced the Psalms.

  2. My favorite Psalm is #88–it’s a great way to express yourself when it seems like your life is going to pieces and there’s no hope in sight. And a comfort to know that a) it’s OKAY to feel like that, and b) that feeling is (will be) outweighed in the end by all the other psalms of praise and instruction.

    Er. I didn’t phrase that very well, but I don’t have the time to pick it to pieces and put it back together properly.

  3. Matt: That’s great what you do with the psalms. I’ll look forward to having you in my Psalms class someday. I’m sure you’ll have a lot to contribute.

    Lydia: Wow! Psalm 88 is tough. One of the toughest, perhaps after 137 (smashing babies on rocks). It’s great that God gave us the Psalms to express our deepest thoughts, feelings and emotions.

  4. ps 15 here with its ‘open window’ on the antiphonal interplay between people approaching worship and the priests who guard the purity of the ‘congregation’.

  5. Jim: Do you avoid Psalm 15, or love it? Sounds like you like it? I haven’t studied or taught 15. Perhaps next time I teach the Psalms?

    Jona: No, we don’t need enemies, but when we’re in pain at how we’ve been hurt, I think imprecatory psalms speak more powerfully to us. I rarely hear imprecatory psalms taught on, spoken on, or even mentioned in the church.

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