Finding hope in the Psalms - Alison Morgan
Alison Morgan’s new book, World Turned Upside Down, is published on 24 March. Here she tells how she prays her book will help her readers find hope, even in the depths of pain and suffering.
‘We boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope – and hope does not disappoint us,’ Paul wrote. But what exactly is hope? It’s something you haven’t got and you can’t see; something you have to wait for, he explains.
How helpful is that, I wondered, when the suffering is not a concept on the biblical page, but an aching reality in your own life? Reflecting on my own experiences and those which others have shared with me, I decided to read the Psalms, and then to pray them. And in the Psalms I found not a simple consolation of this text for that circumstance, but a complex web of interlocking meanings, a song which begins sadly but weaves its way to a triumph of confidence and joy.
Pointing the way
As I prayed, the Psalms became the signposts on a new journey. Who are you, they ask, and who is the God who made you? Look up and out at the world around you – what does it tell you about him? Look back over history – does your own life fit into the pattern you see there? We can lend you the words – can you now articulate your pain in conversation with this God who is so much bigger than you? What does he say, what help does he offer? As you do all these things perhaps, slowly, this thing called hope will begin to grow within you.
The Psalter is a complicated book. On one level it’s a collection of personal prayers offered by a variety of individual authors at moments of anguish or joy; on another it’s the reflection of the journey of an entire people; on yet another it’s the story of creation, loss and redemption, the story of the gospel itself. The Psalms are the prophetic incarnation of the message of hope which would one day be embodied so powerfully by Jesus and articulated so confidently by Paul – the message which alone can bring healing to our troubled souls. As I prayed the Psalms, I too began to find that hope does not disappoint us. My prayer is that in reading this book that may become true for you too.
Alison Morgan has written widely on literature, theology and the Christian life. She is an Associate of the Mathetes Trust, where she oversees the Rooted in Jesus discipleship programme for Africa, now in use in 19 countries. In her spare time enjoys birdwatching, walking and photography.
World Turned Upside Down is published on 24 March. A thematic exploration of the Psalms, it aims to bring insight and solace to those who are finding life complex and painful.
Available now at brfonline.org.uk/world-turned-upside-down
‘Written with great insight and compassion, this deep dive into the Psalms is a much- needed book, at a time when suffering has come home to so many. Alison Morgan deftly explores the many ways in which the ancient poetry of the Psalms can speak into our own lives, so that we really understand what it means to say of these scriptures that “deep calls unto deep”.’
‘Like the Psalms themselves, Alison’s book is refreshingly honest and abounds in insights from her extensive general knowledge and life experience. That makes it a very rich read. Alison draws the reader into their own journey of reflection on what it feels like to be human, with an understanding that we can only truly find ourselves as we discover God in all his multifaceted layers. I found this book immediately engaging, totally absorbing and ultimately healing and restorative.’ Canon Andrew Evans, rector of Broughton Gifford, Great Chalfield and Holt, and rural dean of Bradford, Diocese of Salisbury