A control-freak employer creates an unhealthy workplace. In the same way, negative emotions, like anger, grief, or rejection, are control-freaks who delight to take charge and boss people around.
Emotions are reactionary—both good and bad. When partnered with truth, they are liberated to express joy, excitement, confidence, and peace; but, when partnered with half-truths and lies, they become incendiary—like a fire left untended or unconfined, they consume their hosts.
Unhealthy emotions are like loose shoe-strings, waiting to trip up the faith-walker. They must be tied into double-knots of truth, secured lest they unravel just when life is on the run.
David demonstrates how to live an emotionally healthy life. The psalms that David writes capture the fears, depression, optimism, frustration, desperation, anxiety, gratitude, anger, mourning, abandonment, rejection, impatience, powerlessness, joy, etc.,—the full range of emotion—that David experiences.
Though David feels acutely, he isn’t led by his emotions. Because David prays about every difficult person and every trying or impossible circumstances he is able to respond properly and live an authentic, healthy, and truth-filled emotional life. David yields not to overwhelming emotions, but rather he surrenders to the LORD—he partners with Truth Himself.
David writes seventy-five psalms. In them he expresses a full range of emotions. The following psalms provide a sampling of David’s emotional expressions and the double-knot of truth that David uses to secure his emotions.
Psalm 6 – David experiences exhaustion, despair, and grief over his personal failure, “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul is also greatly troubled; But You, O LORD—how long? Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake!” (2-4), yet he finds comfort in the knowledge that God has heard and will answer his prayer, “The LORD has heard my supplication; The LORD will receive my prayer” (9).
Psalm 12 – David grieves over the spiritual state of God’s people, “Help, LORD, of the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men” (1), but David hopes in God’s intervention, “For the oppression of then poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he yearns” (5).
Psalm 13 – David feels forgotten by God, “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (1-2), but he trusts in God’s mercy, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (5-6).
Psalm 16 – David descends into the depths of depravity, “O my soul, you have said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You’” (2), yet he rejoices in God’s mercy, “I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices . . . You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at your right had are pleasures forevermore” (9, 11).
Psalm 20 – David is troubled over the difficulty that characterize some days, “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble.” In his trouble, however, he trusts in the Lord instead of his resources, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (7).
Psalm 22 – David feels forsaken by God, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me? And from the words of My groaning?” but he nurtures his faith by remembering the help given by God to past generations, “But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed” (1, 3-5).
God reveals Himself as most present and active when He seems most absent and inactive. Little does David know when he writes Psalm 22 that he is expressing the depth of emotion felt by Christ when He bore our sins on the cross, seemingly abandoned by His Father. Yet, his abandonment was our redemption and adoption.
Psalm 23 – David encounters unexpected hardship, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (4), but he trusts in the LORD’s sovereignty, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (2-3).
Psalm 27 – David experiences fear as he faces the wicked, but he trusts in the Lord’s salvation, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear . . . One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple. For in time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hid me: He shall set me high upon a rock” (1-5).
Psalm 62 – David frets as he endures hostility, but he waits upon the LORD to act on his behalf, “How long will you attack a man?” My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God” (3, 5-7).
These and David’s other psalms encourage us to take our unstable and unruly emotions by the scruff of the neck and speak truth to them until they submit to God’s good character and His timely and redemptive activity.