First Sunday of Lent—What to Do with a Psalm When You’re Just Not Feeling It



February 21, 2021

Psalm 44

To the tune of “How Firm a Foundation” Sing it at

1 O God, we have heard what our fathers have told,
What You did in their days, days glor’ous of old.
2 With Your hand You drove out the nations and gave
our fathers their land, crushed all foes in the grave.

3 It was not by sword that they took all the land;
Their arm brought no vict’ry—it was by Your hand.
Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face,
You loved them so truly, and showed them Your grace.

4 O Lord, You’re my God, and You are my great King;
And vict’ries for Jacob You plan and You bring.
5 Through You we push back, enemies we depose;
Through Your name we trample upon all our foes.

6 I trust not my own bow, nor sword for my fame;
7 For You give the vict’ry; put our foes to shame.
8 In God we will boast all throughout the day long;
And we’ll praise Your name, Lord, forever in song.

9 But now You reject us and humble us, too;
Our armies go out, but no longer with You.
10 You made us retreat, as the enemy closed,
And we have been plundered by vi-o-lent foes.

11 Now we are de-vour-ed like sheep that are lost;
You let us be scattered and helplessly tossed.
12 You sold us, Your people, and nothing did gain;
You gave up Your people for others to reign.

13 We’re now a reproach to our neighbors and friends;
The scorn and derision of them never ends.
14 You’ve made us a byword among nations all;
They shake their heads at us, and mockingly call.

15 Disgrace is before me throughout all the day;
My face must be covered; shame won’t go away.
16 They taunt and revile me; reproach never ends;
Because of my foes who are bent on revenge.

17 Now all this has happened, though we had been true;
We broke not Your cov’nant; did not forget You.
18 Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed;
19 You crushed us in darkness; a jackal’s haunt made

20 If we had forgotten the name of our God,
Or spread out our hand to a false, foreign god;
21 Would God not have seen it, since He knows our heart?
22 For Your sake we face death, like sheep torn apart.

23 Awake, Lord! Why sleep? Don’t reject us again.
24 Why hide Your face? When will our misery end?
25 We’re brought down to dust, our life’s flung to the ground;
26 Rise up now and help us! Let Your love abound!


I remember, years ago, the first time I walked into a Gold’s Gym. The sheer number of different weight-lifting machines and exercise stations stunned me. I thought to myself, Who could do all this? In one of my early novice workouts, I decided to try out every machine and station. I think I took the next year off from the gym. Seriously, I discovered muscles I never knew I had. I learned it would take a structured approach over a long period of time to develop my atrophied muscular system. In that season of my life, I grew stronger than ever before, and it improved every aspect of my health and wellness.

Writing in the latter part of the fourth century, Ambrose, the archbishop of Milan, in his commentary on the Psalms, described them as “a gymnasium which is open for all souls to use, where the different psalms are like different exercises set out before him. In that gymnasium, in that stadium of virtue, he can choose the exercises that will train him best to win the victor’s crown.”

When I come to a psalm like today’s, I’ve got to be honest; I’m just not feeling it. All the angst of being forsaken, forgotten, and rejected for no apparent reason is just not my present experience. It’s kind of like what happened to me in the gym over time. Little by little, my exercise regimen got smaller and smaller and also much less diverse. I went for my favorite lifting machines that strengthened my already developed muscles. When it came to the cable crossover exercises, it got easier and easier to “skip that one today.”

Ambrose nailed it in his word on the Psalms. As it is in the gym, so it is with the Psalms. Think of the soul as a type of muscular system. The muscles I exercise will strengthen. The muscles I neglect will atrophy. The trouble with the soul is I have no mirror to assess my condition. It takes a real, live situation to expose the soul. If I am not working out with psalms like today’s text, the muscles will simply not be there when the time comes.

Song 44 is a long way from Song 23. “The Lord is my Shepherd” is in a completely different part of the gym than, “Yet now we face death, and like sheep we’re disowned.”

I am going to address you as a maturing believer. Do the exercise. It doesn’t matter if you feel it. Sing it now.

Ask Yourself. Share with Another.

Can you remember a time when you did not have the inner strength to deal with a person or situation in the way you wanted? How might you exercise and strengthen that part of your soul?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.