Cry of the Soul
Trusting God with our Difficult Emotions
Can a book change your life? Around fifteen years ago I read a book entitled, The Cry of the Soul, by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman. The authors mine the Psalms for the range of difficult emotions (anger, despair, disappointment, anxiety, etc.) endemic to living a broken life in a messed-up world. The Psalms show us that these emotions aren’t to be suppressed or merely vented. Instead, they are brought before God through these songs we sing and prayers we pray. And, through this practice, we grow in our ability to trust God with our difficult emotions.
This book helped me to break free of a stilted faith that can appear content and composed. Yet, underneath the poise can hide a vacant, flatlined faith (never a good thing on a heart rate monitor!). Since reading The Cry of the Soul, the Psalms have become my favorite Scriptures, inviting me to dive in deep with God.
As we work through the Psalms together this Lent (2023), I hope we will come alive to what God might teach us through our emotions when we take them to God in prayer. In this overview I borrow heavily from The Cry of the Soul, and with the attribution comes immense gratitude.
Before we explore further, I’d like to contend with a potential critique upfront: “In a therapeutic culture where validating and often affirming one’s emotional impulses might be the highest form of worship, is it dangerous to give ourselves to such emotional introspection? Will we fall into our own belly buttons and never be able to extract ourselves?”
I don’t believe so. And I lean upon The Cry of the Soul for further insight:
“Our focus on pondering what we feel might lead some readers to conclude that we are encouraging a self-directed introspection. This is not our intention in any respect. Self-absorbed preoccupation with our inner world runs contrary to spiritual maturity. Excessive introspection can lead to a false sense of independence by giving us the illusion that we can exert control over our lives and become the masters of our fate. This path too easily leads to arrogance or confusion. We encourage honest inward examination for the purpose of gaining wisdom—not only to explore the question ‘What’s going on here?’ but even more, to respond to what we discover as we ask, ‘What am I doing with God?’”
By the conclusion of Holy Week, my prayer is that a further understanding of your emotions will grant you wisdom and bring you closer to God. Along the way, you’ll be given tools to help you bring your whole self to God, and you’ll see the Bible less as a rule book and more as a prayer book.
Lent and Holy Week, 2023