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Off The Trail
I’ve been thinking about “should’s” and “ought’s” lately. You know, the things we tell ourselves about what we should or ought to be doing or thinking or feeling. They always have some truth behind them; it’s just that it’s not the WHOLE truth. I’ve been thinking about these things while reading, studying and praying the Psalms. Is it really o.k. to voice all the doubts, fears, and accusations found in the Psalms? Should I really be praying from the dark part of my heart where hatred, jealously and anger dwell? After all, a Christian shouldn’t talk like that. A Christian ought to be positive and full of joy. Ah, there it is . . . the should’s and ought’s that try to keep us lined up and living right.
The problem is that should’s and ought’s never have kept anyone on the straight and narrow. They don’t change a person’s heart, thoughts or attitudes no matter how hard we try to use them to do this. On the other hand, what if we took the prayers of Psalms seriously? Instead of pretending and ignoring, we put full voice to our negative thoughts, feelings, attitudes and doubts. And we voiced them, not to our best friend or our therapist (although in many situations that might be a healthy thing to do), rather, we voiced them out loud to God.
My guess is that God would use that prayer to help us work through whatever the issues might be. That is why so many of the angry, depressed, searching, lament type psalms (like Psalm 22), end up in praise. The psalmists don’t “should” themselves into change, they don’t “ought” themselves to a deeper faith; instead they put honest words to real pain. And, most importantly, they use those words in addressing God. By doing so they are giving God some room to teach them something about himself. And in the process they learn something about themselves, and in the midst of it all, somehow, God creates newness!