Praying the Blues

There seems to be nothing in common between following Jesus and singing the Blues. The expectation for Christ followers is that we always are supposed to be happy. Happy, happy, happy. That even when things are dark we have a smile on our face and an answer for everything. But is that really being honest? The Blues, on the other hand, expresses sorrow, anxiety, and even depression. Those songs rarely have a happy ending and they don’t suddenly find an answer. Expressing the feelings of the moment is the power of the Blues. Believe it or not, folks sing and play the Blues because it makes them feel better.

Now, before you think that I’m making some kind of weird connection for the sake of writing something consider Psalm 38. The writer says, “O LORD, rebuke me not in Your wrath, And chasten me not in Your burning anger. For Your arrows have sunk deep into me, And Your hand has pressed down on me.” (Psalm 38:1–2, NASB95) Well, there’s a happy thought! (sarcasm alert) A little later the Psalm writer laments, “My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague; And my kinsmen stand afar off. Those who seek my life lay snares for me; And those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction, And they devise treachery all day long.” (Psalm 38:11–12, NASB95) Everyone has it in for her or him. Their closest friends have turned their backs and others are waiting for their fall. The closest the writer gets to a bright thought is, “For I hope in You, O LORD; You will answer, O Lord my God.” (Psalm 38:15, NASB95) But the Psalm doesn’t end on this hopeful note but returns again to the Blues. “For I am ready to fall, And my sorrow is continually before me. For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.” (Psalm 38:17–18, NASB95) The final note of this Psalm is one of pleading for God’s help, “Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, do not be far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!” (Psalm 38:21–22, NASB95)

Notice that the Psalmist didn’t tell God what to do. He or she poured out their need, expressed their true and inner feelings, stated what was making them anxious, and honestly assessed the role of their own sin in the process. There is no answer here, no steps of obedience prescribed, no glorious declaration of God’s rule and reign. Yet, even though it is filled with the Blues, it is not pessimistic. It’s not a Psalm complaining that nothing ever changes but instead, in one brief flicker, places hope in God.

Sometimes we just need to pray the Blues. There’s nothing wrong with pouring out our real heartfelt feelings to God. It may not feel like it, but this is a prayer of faith. We are trusting the one person in our lives that will fully hear us out and give us an honest answer in return. Maybe even the one answer that we don’t want to hear. Faith is not about knowing the answers but about trusting God with our unknowns. Praying the Blues may not instantly change our situation, but it will change us. I think that it may have been contained in Peter’s instruction, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7, NASB95) So, pray the Blues, cast all of your anxiety on Jesus because He really does care. He really will listen. Jesus knows your heart anyway so go ahead and pray your Blues. Jesus won’t condemn you or your feelings. Our prayer is that Jesus, your salvation, speedily helps you.

Dale Heinold
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