The Psalmify Playlist
I stared at the treadmill and completely froze. I had forgotten to pack ear buds in my gym bag. Without my music, I felt lost. How in the world do people exercise without music blasting in their ears? Do these people really exist?
My music playlist is everything. Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora…I’ll take any deal (hopefully free for three months) I can get on those subscriptions.
There’s nothing quite like having “Eye of the Tiger”, “Fight Song”, or even an N-Sync song (revoke my ‘Man Card') to motivate me to run one more mile or to push through one more set at the gym. I must have my music…but not only when I’m exercising. Whether I’m up or down, lethargic, or just feeling nostalgic, the perfect compilation of songs will meet me in my emotions at just the right time.
Create a Psalms Playlist
My playlist infatuation comes as no surprise to God, the creator of music. He generously supplies us with the perfect anthology of His own spiritual music in the Psalms. His massive music library of Psalms contains 150 songs filled with timeless lyrics for nearly every occasion. This is ideal for creating classic, transcendent spiritual playlists for any and every situation.
With such an exhaustive collection of Psalms, how do you generate your own unique playlist? Alphabetical order? Numeric order 1-to-150? That’s too tedious and few would do it that way with secular music. Instead, let’s build a playlist by theme or mood. To get you started, here is my current ‘Psalmify Playlist’; my ‘go-to’ songs by category of needs:
1. When I’m Drifting or Frustrated with Life: Psalm 73
If you’re anything like me, you’re prone to drift away from God. Rather than wanting more of God, I often want more of the world. It’s all too easy for me to scan Facebook or Instagram and begin to envy the lives other people: their homes, vacations, and seemingly carefree life. This song speaks to my sin and wakes me up from drifting. It pulls me back into the presence of God, where everything once again makes sense to me.
Verses 25, 28: “…earth has nothing I desire besides you…as for me, it is good to be near God.”
For more drifting songs, see Psalms 37 & 49.
2. When I’m Anxious or Overwhelmed: Psalm 116
The way I’m wired, it feels like I go from one trial to the next. This is my favorite Psalm and it’s the song I go to the most for inspiration and re-calibration as a Christian. The reason I love it so much is because it tells the story of how I became a Christian and how God continues to rescue me, even to this day.
Verses 7, 12: “Be at rest once more more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. How can I repay the LORD for all of his goodness to me?”
This song demands that my soul be at peace based on facts. It reminds me of all the good God has done for me over the years. With God’s goodness to me as motivation, I must fulfill the vows I’ve made to God as ‘payback’ to Him for as long as I live. Speaking of payback…
3. When I’m Angry with People, Politics, or Persecution: Psalm 139
Psalm 139 is a beautiful, famous song that vividly describes God’s intimacy with you and me, long before we were even born. Then all of sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, David remembers his enemies and inserts these jarring lyrics in the song:
Verses 19-22: “Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.”
Similar to secular music, there are songs in God’s Word that could certainly come with a warning label. It’s important to remember the genre of the Psalms is music and poetry, not Old Testament law. This means we will often hear the songwriter’s raw emotions in the lyrics of these songs, no matter if those feelings are righteous or unrighteous.
It’s surprising and uncomfortable to see these lyrics in the Bible, but I’m grateful God allows unfiltered, explicit, and often un-Christian words into a handful of the Psalms. God invites us to respectfully take our anger, hostility, and hatred for others to Him in prayer so He can soften our malicious hearts and leave the ‘revenge business’ to Him.
Verses 23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
For more explicit Psalms like this, please see 137:7-9; 58:6-11; 109:3-13, 21-31.
4. When I Don’t Get What I Want: Psalm 23
There’s a reason this song never gets old, no matter how many times it’s played: All the lyrics of Psalm 23 are pure gold and transcend every generation. The portion of the song that recently has spoken to me the most is the very first line:
Verse 1: “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”
There are so many things I want. There are so many things I think I need. When I sing the first few words of Psalm 23 over and over again in prayer, it tells me this truth: With Jesus leading me and caring for me in his “kind yoke” (Matthew 11:30), I always have everything I need…and more. The problem is, God has a different timeline than me…
5. When I’m Sick of Waiting: Psalm 27
This is a fitting song for when I hope for big things to happen and they don’t, at least not when I want them to happen. This can be a painful, nauseating ride at times because hope always involves waiting and “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). For more on the sickness of hope click here or listen to a podcast on this topic.
David’s decade as an outlaw, constantly on the run from his father-in-law, King Saul, inspired the lyrics for this song. Psalm 27 is one of approximately 20 “Fugitive Songs” David wrote while suffering and waiting on God to fulfill His promise that someday he would become king. The lyrics of this song reinforce the truth that with God on my side, there’s no reason to give into fear but alternatively, I must strive to get back to what is most important:
No matter the circumstances, seek intimacy with God above all else. That’s David’s glorious tunnel vision in this song. The message is clear in verse 4: Clear out all the debris in our lives and simply “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD”. In God’s presence we can then say with confidence, just as David did, that we will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. In other words, our best days as Christians are right in front of us! And that’s certainly worth all the wait.
Additional Playlist Songs
When I’m Lethargic About God’s Word: Psalm 19; 119
When I’m Feeling Ungrateful: Psalm 103
When I’m Weary as a Parent: Psalm 78
When I Need to Come Clean About Sin: Psalm 51; 32
For further study on the many different types of Psalms, the International Teaching Ministry of Douglas Jacoby provides an excellent resource. Additionally, please see the sermon series, “The Psalms Playlist”.