6 Ways the Psalms Sing to Our Fears
Let me be honest. At this stage of life, I sometimes struggle with fear. That gut-wrenching, cloud of dread that descends in the dead of night, shooting “what ifs” at my mind and heart. I can fear for my wife, my kids, myself. I am tempted to be afraid about finances, or illness, or the future. I fear incompetence, or making mistakes, or insignificance. Do you know what I mean?
Fear can be paralyzing, shutting down our initiative and stifling real progress and joy. While there are healthy forms of fear, in its less than healthy manifestations, fear fights against trust in God’s good care.
So, when I am struggling with fear, I find meditating on the Psalms a great help and comfort. Here are 6 ways in which that wonderful “song book” for life helps me to process my fears, bringing them to the Lord.
1. The Psalms Encourage Me to Be Honest with God about My Fears
One thing I love about the Bible is its honesty about life. It speaks to life as it really is in the real world, stares that reality in the face, and points us to God. The psalmist at times bears his heart, telling us explicitly about his struggles, giving us permission to be honest about our own. On one occasion he had been betrayed by a friend, and a crowd were gathering against him. He writes,
My heart beats violently within me; the horrors of death overcome me. 5 Fear and panic overpower me; terror overwhelms me. 6 I say, “I wish I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and settle in a safe place!”
(Ps 55:4–6 NET)
Have you ever felt like that? Yet, the psalmist looks to the Lord:
16 But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. 17 I complain and groan morning, noon, and night, and He hears my voice. 18 Though many are against me, He will redeem me from my battle unharmed.
(Ps 55:16–18 HCSB)
So the psalms give us a voice for the fears we experience and points us to the Lord in the midst of them.
2. The Psalms Point Me to the Word of God as More Significant than the Words of Others
We all have times when we experience fear of what others think and say about us. People can cause real damage to our lives, so the threat may be serious. The psalmist cries out,
Do not give me over to the will of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
(Ps 27:12 HCSB)
Yet, the psalmist in another place confesses
3 When I am afraid,
I will trust in You. 4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not fear.
What can man do to me? (Ps 56:3–4 HCSB)
What God says about us is what counts. His character can be trusted; he offers us true stability in life.
3. The Psalms Instruct Me in Patterns of Life that are Stable
Sometimes we are fearful because of the choices we have made in life. In that case, fear can be a healthy nudge to move back onto the path of God’s ways, which is a firm, stable place to walk in life.
44 I will always obey Your instruction,
forever and ever. 45 I will walk freely in an open place
because I seek Your precepts. 46 I will speak of Your decrees before kings
and not be ashamed. 47 I delight in Your commands, which I love. (Ps 119:44–47 HCSB)
Our culture wants to tell us that freedom in life is found as we abandon God’s ways, but the opposite is the case. Real freedom, walking “freely in an open place,” comes with a deep commitment to God’s Word.
4. The Psalms Point Me to God’s Care for My Future
I love Ps. 16:5-6:
5 LORD, You are my portion
and my cup of blessing;
You hold my future. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me
in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
(Ps 16:5–6 HCSB)
Another favorite, that speaks of God’s providential care, is Ps. 32:8:
I will instruct you and show you the way to go;
with My eye on you, I will give counsel. (Ps 32:8 HCSB)
God cares about us and will lead us in life as we seek him.
5. The Psalms Remind Me I am a Part of a Broader Community of Faith
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a helper who is always found
in times of trouble. 2 Therefore we will not be afraid,
though the earth trembles
and the mountains topple
into the depths of the seas, 3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with its turmoil. (Ps 46:1–3 HCSB)
Did you notice the plurals there? Life is not just about “me and Jesus,” but rather has to do with life in the community of God’s people. Others in the Body give us discernment and perspective as we face frightening aspects of life. We need our brothers and sisters to say, “We will not be afraid,” reminding us that we stand together as we stand with the Lord.
6. The Psalms Call Me to Thanksgiving & Praise
At the end of the day, we need to “fear” the Lord, which means we need to have a deep reverence for him, our lives profoundly oriented to him and his ways. Over fifty times in the psalms, the writer calls us to “fear” Yahweh. So a very important aspect of rooting out unhealthy fear has to do with orienting our lives to a deep reverence for and worship of God; we need to bow before him, and worship and thank him regularly to put life in perspective. This dispels unhealthy fear. Take a moment and worship him with me now:
3 Proclaim Yahweh’s greatness with me; let us exalt His name together. 4 I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him from all his troubles. 7 The Angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. (Ps 34:3–7 HCSB)