Don’t Just Survive.


Using Psalms to Help You Soar

Table of Contents

  1. Thriving—or Just Surviving? Psalm 23
  2. Two Paths: Psalm 1
  3. God’s Word in the Psalms: Psalms 19 & 119
  4. Finding God in the Psalms: Psalms 130 & 103
  5. Double Focus: Psalms 139, 40, & 117
  6. The Darkness: Psalms 12, 46, & 88
  7. When I’m Drifting: Psalms 73 & 37
  8. Create in Me a Pure Heart: Psalm 51
  9. Prayers You Shouldn't Pray: Psalms 137, 58, & 109
  10. Christ in the Psalms, the Psalms in Christ: Psalm 110
  11. Singing in the Shower: Psalm 151
  12. Open My Mouth: Psalm 81

Table: Psalms for Every Occasion



Surviving or Thriving?

(Psalm 23)


You haven’t been flourishing as a Christian for a while now. When people ask how you’re doing, your response is an automatic “fine” or “okay”—blank words that don’t reveal what you’re really feeling… or maybe you don’t know what you feel yourself. You find your real, inner self drifting in a sea of turmoil and uncertainty, with the Captain nowhere in sight. John of the Cross, in his Dark Night of the Soul, expressed the feeling in this way: “My spirit has become dry because it forgets to feed on You.” We’ve all been there.

The truth is that you’ve lost your spiritual anchor. You’ve wandered off the charted course you once navigated with purpose and focus; now you drift, unmoored and aimless, hoping the next storm won’t pull you under.

Maybe you’ve been trying to hide your spiritual condition, but are you really fooling others anyway? Aren’t many of them also experiencing this same melancholy? An unspoken agreement to keep things superficial guarantees that neither you nor they will ask the uncomfortable questions. This dynamic is especially common among “middle-aged Christians,” those who’ve been following the Lord for fifteen or twenty years or more but are slowly succumbing to spiritual suffocation (Luke 8:14).

You say this doesn’t describe you? That’s great. But even if your walk with God is thriving now, there may come a day when the outlook isn’t so encouraging. One day you may feel a sense of hopelessness and find that your spirit, zeal, and joy need to be “restored.”

Biblically speaking, restoration isn’t only for those who have cut ties with fellow believers and gone back to the world. In the Bible, restoration is for those who have lost their first love for Christ and are now just “hanging in there”. . . just surviving (Galatians 6:1–2).

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
    through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Fortunately for us, the Lord is a good shepherd who restores our souls. Whose heart can fail to thrill at Jesus’ beautiful declaration, so full of hope and promise? “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd” (John 10:10–11). There’s always a way to get back on board, provided we’re willing to grab the lifeline God throws us (1 Corinthians 10:12–13). The way back will require repentance—surrendering our lives to the Lord (again).

Does that sound difficult? It isn’t. In another soaring promise, Jesus offers to help us when the way feels too rough and our burdens too heavy to carry alone:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)

You can do this—you can rekindle the zeal you felt at first (1 John 5:3; Deuteronomy 30:11). The Lord has given us his promises and his word to get us back on track, to recapture our heart. And when it comes to reaching the heart, no other book in Scripture is quite like Psalms.

Christians are encouraged to use the book of Psalms as a constant, nourishing part of our spiritual life, in worship and communion with God (Ephesians 5:18–19; Colossians 3:15–16). From the opening verse of Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man. . .,” to the closing exhortation of Psalm 150, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord,” readers throughout the ages have found comfort and restoration for their souls.

In a sense, Psalms has always been the hymnbook and the prayer book of the church. The psalms are rich and deep. They touch our hearts, revealing the inner emotions and currents.

Our hearts may be filled with heartache, chaos, and contradiction. And when the waters of life and spirituality become murky or rough, we may not need a list of things to do, a “how-to” book, or a new code of discipline. Sometimes we just need connection—a lifeline that we can cling to and follow back to safety—back to God. The psalms don’t offer solutions to all our problems so much as they offer therapy—thoughts and emotions to which we can all relate.

Of course, restoration will require effort and focus, but it is refreshing. In the end, it means fervor and life (Psalm 51:12; Romans 12:11; Revelation 3:14–20).

When you first came to faith you were aglow with God’s Spirit. God was real and he felt real. No matter what you have been through in your spiritual journey, no matter how far off course you may be or how long you have been lost at sea, know this: God is as real today as he was when you first started out.

So much has happened since your early days. Even if you have gotten discouraged and found yourself drifting, this need not be the end of your story. Once again our hearts can be reignited with heavenly fire. The book of Psalms can be the life raft God uses to guide us back to our first love. If you’ve been spiritually floundering, it’s time to stop treading water, simply surviving; let the Psalms redirect, restore, and revive you—it’s never too late to thrive.

Heart questions

  • Am I reading this book as a self-improvement plan? Do I realize that a relationship with God is infinitely more than a new spiritual plan or a to-do list?
  • What are my expectations about the Lord strengthening me through the psalms? Are they high or low—and why?
  • Is there any sense in which my faith needs to be reignited—to “be rekindled with fire from above”?

Prayer points

  • To be honest in speech, not pretending to be doing better than I really am (Acts 5:1–11).
  • To make the most of fellowship, renouncing superficiality, truly caring how others are doing (Colossians 1:28–2:1).
  • Not merely to survive but, in Christ, to thrive (John 10:10).