For the director of music. A psalm of David. 1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. 2 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. 3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. 4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. 5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. 6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the Lord. 7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. 8 You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place. 9 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. 10 My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. 11 Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends— those who see me on the street flee from me. 12 I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. 13 For I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!” They conspire against me and plot to take my life. 14 But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. 16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. 17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and be silent in the realm of the dead. 18 Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous. 19 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you. 20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues. 21 Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege. 22 In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. 23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. 24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
Somewhere in my experience of growing up in a Christian family and attending church I picked up the idea (probably not explicitly taught) that expressing strong “negative” emotions was not really acceptable in God’s eyes.
As I grew older, reading the Psalms was one of the things that helped me to understand that God is able to handle all of the range of human emotions, and in fact, encourages our honest expressions in prayer. The very presence of such prayers in Scripture is a sign that He understands human emotions. He knows how we feel and speak when we are desperate.
Psalm 31 is filled with a huge range of emotions from, “I’m dying from grief…my body and soul are withering away…” to “I will be glad and rejoice in Your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles, and You care about the anguish of my soul.”
The point is not whether the Psalmist is actually dying and withering away from grief, but rather that it’s ok to say those things God. He is not shocked or perturbed by unfiltered raw emotions. This understanding has brought a depth and richness to my relationship with God, and a freedom that I had not previously experienced when I felt I needed to filter my emotions before talking to God.
How grateful I am to know that I am loved and understood by You, God, in all of my faults and frailties, and that you desire honesty, not perfection.
Written by Shelley Witt