I’ve been thinking about how my daily practice of reading the Psalms can possibly address the urgent questions of our day. Name the issue: The looming, ever-dangerous coronavirus; the corrosive polarization of our politics; the hollowed out moral center of our society; threats to our financial well being, and on and on. I am totally alarmed that hatred seems to come from our lips so easily, no matter our position on things. Things are bad.

Do I exaggerate? In our anguished reflections we ask: What is the solution? Where do we turn? Who will lead us out of this wilderness? What can I do to make things better?

So, reading the Psalms? As part of my own daily practice, I try to read slowly, reflectively, meditatively. Some people call this holy reading, or lectio divina. One author calls it “reading to live.” Another calls it “the art of sacred reading,” adding that “such holy reading is not preparation for prayer but prayer itself.”

Amazingly, this is what the Psalmist had to say to me this morning:

Do not be vexed because of evildoers
or envy those who do wrong.
For like the grass they soon wither,
and like green pasture they fade away.

Wait a minute. This too shall pass? Well, thank you very much, but I am very “vexed” at the moment. I’m scared. Everyone is. Does this Psalm imply that “evildoers” are the cause of everything wrong?

Well, maybe. There is evil in the world, though usually we are uncomfortable saying it that way. But isn’t the Psalmist trying to strike the note that evil will not win out in the end? It will soon “fade away.” And what will take its place?

Stay with me. The poem goes on to say:

Trust in the Lord and do good;
settle in the land and find safe pasture.
Delight in the Lord,
and he will grant you your heart’s desire.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your righteousness shine clear as the day
and the justice of your cause like the brightness of noon.

We’ve shifted quite dramatically here. Trust, that’s the main thing. But trust in what? Well, the clear focus is on the Lord. That’s the radical difference of this worldview. Notice too this is not totally passive. It is trust in the Lord—and do good. Do the best you can. Build up your own family. Give kindness where you can. Do good wherever possible. All the while trusting in the Lord.

And then we end with this amazing counsel:

Wait quietly for the Lord, be patient till he comes;
do not envy those who gain their ends,
or be vexed at their success.

Be angry no more, have done with wrath;
do not be vexed: that leads to evil.
For evildoers will be destroyed,
while they who hope in the Lord will possess the land.

Why do we do this kind of holy reading? Wait quietly, be patient. Stop worrying. “Be angry no more, have done with wrath.” Life-changing counsel.

The contemplative writer Michael Casey says when I practice holy reading like this, “I am opening myself to a God who changes history. I not only receive guidance and comfort, I offer God the opportunity to revolutionize the whole tenor of that segment of history that is my little life.” (47)

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why I read the Psalms every morning. Maybe changing my little life, maybe reshaping my worldview, maybe through trusting in the Lord, yes, maybe this is our answer to the horrible vexations in our lives and world today. This can change everything, can’t it?

Naïve? What else are we going to do?