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This guided journal through the Psalms turned out to be far more helpful, inspiring, and transformational than I thought it might be. I had never before gotten into spiritual journaling; it never seemed like something I had time for. But this journal, beautifully designed and filled with gorgeous photos of sunsets, mountains, coastlines, etc., made it easy and quick to express the good, the bad, and the ugly in my life, honestly and openly, just like the Psalmists in ancient days did.

Based on the famous Frederick Buechner quote, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you,” the journal is divided into three sections:

• Life Is Beautiful: Beautiful things will happen
• Life Is Hard: Terrible things will happen
• God’s Got This: Don’t be afraid. I am with you

In “Life is Beautiful,” readers learn to express gratitude to God as they pour their hearts out before him.

They will learn intriguing facts about the Psalms, such as that the short story, “That Thou Art Mindful of Him,” by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, is taken from a phrase found in Psalm 8. They will read enriching quotes from people ranging from Saint Athanasius to Bono, and seemingly everyone in between.

Athanasius said, “The Psalms become a mirror to the person singing them,” while Bono makes an excellent point about this singular book of the Bible and its author(s): “The Psalmist is brutally honest about the explosive joy that he’s feeling and the deep sorrow or confusion, and it’s that that sets the Psalms apart for me. And I often think, gosh, well, why isn’t church music more like that?” (Why indeed?)

“Life is Hard” encourages readers with the fact that, “to our benefit, the Psalms do not sidestep this hard and often terrible reality (of life in a broken world). Rather, they fall in step beside us and encourage us to lament—to mourn or grieve.”

Charles Spurgeon referred to Psalm 13 as “The Howling Psalm. It says in verse 1, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” and Spurgeon’s title seems like the perfect way to describe David’s seething emotions in this chapter.

And finally, in the section called “God’s Got This,” we are reminded that God is good, as the Psalmist declares: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (46:1, ESV). (That would be the “Don’t be afraid” part of the Buechner quote.)

Throughout the book, readers are asked three questions for every Psalm:

What’s beautiful today?

What’s hard right now?

Where do you need God the most?

I found this format to be an easy way to gain clarity on what was going on in my soul that day, and looking over my answers from a few months ago was revelatory and encouraging. Honestly, this journaling approach to the Psalms was so beneficial, invigorating and comforting, I can’t think of any devotional that has drawn me to God’s heart like this one.

In the words of Spurgeon, “The book of Psalms instructs us in the use of wings as well as words. It sets us both mounting and singing.” Life is beautiful and terrible, but the Psalms, like no other book, help us soar high with praise and cry out to God from the depths of our hearts. In reading the Psalms, we find solace anew in the fact that we need not be afraid, God is with us. (Ink &Willow)

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