Singing the Blues

By March 24, 2010 Psalms

I need to know how to live with my sadness. Southern slaves sang the blues and passed on to us a more ancient prescription that, given a healthy brain, will lead us through sadness to joy. And  in Psalm 42 & 43, God teaches us to sing the blues, too.

 These psalms exists because someone, one of the sons of Korah, labored to release his sadness into song. Were the “sons of Korah” the original blues brothers?

“These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.”(42:4

Cooped up sadness kills us. Remember, Psalm 42-3 is a song, a soulful song to be belted out with all the feeling it deserves. It points to three key relationships where our sadness needs to be “poured out”.

God teaches us to “pour out” our soul to Him. (42:1, 6-7, 43:1-3).

He also teaches us to “pour out” our soul to the community of God. ( 42:2-4, 8-10, 43:4)

 Third, God teaches us to “pour out your soul” to yourself.  (42:5, 11, 43:5)


Sin has alienated us from ourselves. We don’t know ourselves.

So, God leads us to pour out our souls– to sing the blues — because it sharpens our longings, our sadness and our hope.

When we pour out our longings before Him we sharpen our desire for God (42:1-2), our  desire for community(42:3-4) and our desire for hope, peace and joy (42:5).

 Singing the blues helps us understand the depth and power of our sadness, too. Sometimes my wife, Jill, teases me. She’ll say, “What’s wrong”? I say, “nothing”. Three days later, I say,” Something was really bothering me the other night…” And she will laugh. It took me three days to realize something was wrong. Have you ever been singing a song (the blues) and been surprise by tears or a knot in your throat?

Sadness asks three questions in Psalms 42 and 43: “when” (:2), “where” (:3); “why” (5, 9 11, 43:2, 5). In our deepest sadness we even wonder if God has forgotten  or rejected us.

 Singing the blues points us to our hope (what or who you count on to meet your longings), too.

In popular culture hope is in “that boy” or “that girl” or “that car” ( in a country music song, “that truck”.) or “the way it used to be”.

The Sons of Korah declare their one hope: God. He is the Living God. He is like water to the thirsty. He satisfies my longings. Help comes in His presence, before His face. He is “the God of my life” (:8) and commands His kesed (grace) with a song in the darkness and His song becomes MY prayer.

In C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the travelers discover The Dark Isle and row into the darkness to a place where dreams come true, including nightmares! Unable to find their way out of the darkness,  Aslan, Lewis’ Christ-figure, comes as an albatross of light and leads them to safety and sanity. Christ alone enters the darkness of depression and leads us out.

God’s light and truth lead me, bring me to God my exceeding joy (43:3) . Depression is a deep darkness, with no evident way out. But John 1:4 tells us that “In Him was life and the life was the light of men”. When we sing the blues, we sing the truth about our longings, our sadness and our Savior. Singing the blues is singing the gospel. The light comes and we are sane again.

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