What about the angry psalms – often called the cursing psalms – where the psalmist is ranting and raving and just lets it rip against his enemies? What about them? Should we be embarrassed about them, and try to hide them in a dark corner where no one will notice them?
I am so glad my community prays them and doesn’t leave them out. They are so important. It’s to do again with listening to humanity. Every good listener knows that when someone has been deeply hurt, the hurt person cannot arrive at forgiveness immediately. Stages need to be negotiated. Shock and denial usually come first, then a kind of mixed-up experience follows, that alternates between the acceptance of what happened and rage that it happened at all; forgiveness of the one who caused the hurt is usually way down the line. The rage must be allowed its place in the healing process or the capacity to forgive the one who caused the pain is compromised.
In the angry psalms we, of course, are not advocating that the hurt person should go out and act on his or her angry impulses! But in these psalms we are allowed to turn those impulses into prayer; we honestly admit them within a relationship to God that is dedicated to the healing process. We are identifying with those who are in that very painful place of hurt and rage. We don’t judge anything the psalmist expresses – that is noit our role – we just allow it to be. This might happen to be cathartic, also, for the one praying – but it’s not by any means the whole story of what’s happening when we use the angry psalms for prayer.
We’re also learning something extremely important about God in these angry psalms. We’re learning that we have a God who allows us to say, “THIS IS UNBEARABLE” in bold print, underlined three times, with six exclamation marks, and who doesn’t mind. At all. The Jewish boast, “What other nation has its gods as close to them as our God is to us,” could be interpreted in this sense: that God wants us to bring him everything, not just the nice presentable bits of ourselves, but the really raw bits, too, the whole kit and caboodle, our entire inner life. The angry psalms help us to do this.