What Can Miserable Christians Sing?

"[A] high proportion of the psalter is taken up with lamentation, with feeling sad, unhappy, tormented, and broken. In modern Western culture, these are simply not emotions which have much credibility: sure, people still feel these things, but to admit that they are a normal part of one’s everyday life is tantamount to admitting that one has failed in today’s health, wealth, and happiness society." - Carl Truman

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Bert Perry's picture

Yes, call me a broken record, but I'd love it if we had a Psalms reading to start every church service to prepare mens' minds for the task of meeting with God, and Trueman nails it as he laments the loss of lamentation in our songs of praise to God.  Another interesting parallel is the claim--definitely imperfect, but yet instructive--that due to 350 years of asininity waged against them, the black church in the U.S. has a better understanding of the theology of suffering than do we fishbelly white types.  

So to Trueman's "recover the Psalms, recover evangelism", I'd add "recover the Psalms, remedy some historic wrongs in the church."  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I found this to be generally a good article, but a bit of a rampage or tirade.

Still, if you can read between the intense emotions, the points are well taken and something we need to heed.

"The Midrash Detective"

dmyers's picture

For me, this is one of the (many) benefits of having joined a United Reformed Church.  The first 150+ songs in the hymnal are the Psalms (with multiple entries for the longer psalms).  And our pastor makes a point on a regular basis to remind us that the lament psalms are there -- and we sing them -- for a reason.

Larry Nelson's picture

I grew up singing this song in Sunday School, VBS, and at Bible Camp:

"I'm inright, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time

I'm inright, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time

Since Jesus Christ came in
And cleansed my heart from sin

I'm inright, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time

I'm inright, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time

I'm inright, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time"



Plus Isaac Watts wouldn't lie to me, right?:

"At the cross, at the cross where
  I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
  And now I am happy all the day!"



Because accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior results in a Christian never again experiencing trials, heartbreak, persecution, sadness, mourning, loneliness, regret, fear, or anything other than pure, unadulterated JOY, right?  (Er, ah, nevermind.....)

josh p's picture

I agree with Ed that this is a bit of a rant but that it’s also good stuff. Trueman is one of the few authors in Christianity that I think is always interesting. Even when I disagree with him, i’m interested. When my ex-wife left me I remember going to church (my former one) and feeling like I stepped into an alternate reality. We were singing all of these giddy and trite songs and my soul was crying out for help to God. Still, the hurting Christian needs to be reminded of the peace and comfort that only Christ can provide. There is a place for lament but there is also a place for realizing that earthly tragedy is the outworking of a sovereign God’s plan and that He has provided our salvation and ultimate eternity with Him.

pvawter's picture

We've been singing psalms for the past 3 years, ever since I started preaching through the book. There are a number of very helpful resources online both for older metrical versions and new ones. Here are a few of the pages I've used:

1912 Presbyterian psalter

Seedbed psalter