A Psalmic Faith

Published on the Biblical Counseling Coalition Website on January 24, 2018.

What is a Psalmic faith? I learned the term from Biblical Counselor Dr. David Powlison, who stated that there is a quality in the Psalms that often does not meet the “godliness” definition in the church proper. A Psalmic faith is a Coram Deo awareness and a godly candor as we confront a fallen world.

So often in times of trial, the church can become moralistic or pietistic. We try to avoid pain and struggle by jumping to correct doctrine, possibly shortchanging the process of sanctification. How can we have a faith like David the Psalmist, a “man after God’s own heart”? Jesus Christ himself in the garden of Gethsemane had perfect faith and foreknowledge, yet he cried out in sorrow to Abba Father. How can we have that manner of intimacy with God? Since we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, who has been tempted as we are yet was without sin, we draw near before the throne of grace with confidence, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:15-16). We reverently (Heb 5:8) dialogue with him; we cry out sometimes with groaning too deep for words (Rom 8:26) and we listen and find comfort through communing with Him; remembering who He is, what He has done, and the promises yet to be filled, and then resting in Him. Despite our imperfect faith, it is in returning and rest that we shall find our salvation, and in quietness and trust that we shall find our strength (Isa 30:15).

I found my Psalmic faith personally challenged last year when my father died suddenly. I was a daddy’s girl. Despite sharing the gospel with him many times, he rejected the claims of Christ. I come from a Japanese-American culture, where stoicism is often valued. Stoicism can be found in Christian culture as well. Paul Miller wrote:

Our inability to lament is primarily due to the influence of the Greek mind on the early church. Greek Stoicism believed that emotions – anything that interrupted the goal of a calm and balanced life—were bad. The passionate person was the immature person.

A lament grieves that the world is unbalanced. It grieves at the gap between reality and God’s promise. It believes in a God who is there, who can act in time and space. It doesn’t drift into cynicism or unbelief, but engages God passionately with what’s wrong.[1]

Initially, I held on tightly to God and preached his truths to myself. I engaged with the truths of the Godhead three-in-one, the miracle of my own salvation, the Giver of the gift of my precious earthly father, God’s promises kept and promises yet to be filled, God’s mercy, sovereignty, faithfulness and lovingkindness, and our sanctification through trials. I read through numerous resources on grief, and could tell others these Biblical truths I was learning through the loss of my father. I think I put pressure on myself, because as a Biblical Counselor, I so strongly believe in the ministry of the Word and the sufficiency of Scripture.

Finally, I grew weary, and I just wept. I started where I was, rather than where I thought I should be. I engaged in a different way with God. I acknowledged the pain and lamented that my earthly father could be forever separated from my Heavenly father, that there are those who will never know Christ as their Lord and Savior. I recognized that just as I would not want my son to think he has to have everything figured out and his emotions and doctrine and truths all in order before he can engage with me or find comfort from me, that God allows me to come to Him in my mess, and that this is an act of trust and worship of Him.

In the lament, I have learned to come to the end of myself and rely instead on God (2 Cor 1:9). In the failure of flesh and heart, I have found Him as my strength and portion forever (Psa 73:25). In the sorrow, I became more able to rejoice at his comfort in the depths as I called to Him (2 Cor 6:10, Psa 130). In the anguish, I have experienced Him holding me fast (Jude 24) and taking my faith (1 Pet 1:6-7), hope (Rom 5:3-5), and love for God deeper. In my weakness, I knew even more that his grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9) and his Holy Spirit has interceded with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8:26).

Job took 42 chapters to reckon with God, and in avoiding my pain and wanting a perfect faith over a Psalmic faith, God has reminded me of the process of sanctification, and part of that process is not simply growing in truth, but growing in gnosis of Him (Phil 3:13) through the worship of lament.

Many counselees have unrestrained emotions which need to be addressed with biblical truths. At the same time, are you able to recognize those counselees who may over-intellectualize as a means to escape pain and honest engagement with God[2] and lead them toward a Psalmic faith?

Questions for Reflection: With your counselees (as well as yourself) do you help them to engage not just with God’s truths, but with God Himself? For those who lean toward stoicism, do you guide them toward a Psalmic faith?

[1] Paul MillerA Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships.

[2] For those familiar with Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker, is the counselee “peace-faking” their relationship with God (making things look good even when they are not), rather than “peace-making” (engaging in honest, humble dialogue to address what may have come between you and another)? In my marriage, while peace-faking in the short run at times can feed my idol of pride and moralism, in the long run it leads to greater discord. On the other hand, though peacemaking at times has been difficult and painful, it has led to deeper intimacy with my husband.


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