In the midst of the frenzy and excitement of our lives, it is easy to become overwhelmed. So much is happening all around us and it can be difficult to know how to pause, to center ourselves, and hold onto what is most important. In these moments and spaces, we can turn to the book of Psalms. Psalms spans the breadth of human emotions and experiences and assures us that there is room for all of this in our relationship with God. We are united in our experience as children of God, as human beings attempting to make sense of the world.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular and inspirational psalms to meet you where you are and to help you grow in your relationship with God. Reflect on them yourself, or send them to a friend or loved one who could benefit from the encouragement of scripture.
The book of Psalms is centered around giving glory to God and exploring what it looks like to respond to the hills and valleys of life through faith. Through beautiful and creative poetic expression, the Psalms are as relevant today as they were at the time of their composition. This Biblical book continues to help us to fix our eyes upon God and encourages us to give thanks for the blessings we have received.
Psalms for Comfort
When we are faced with challenges and struggles—stress, grief, loneliness—we can be comforted in the knowledge that our God loves and cares for us. Here then are some of the greatest psalms to soothe your soul and bring you peace.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” —verses 1-4
Psalm 23 has had a long life as perhaps the most famous of all the psalms, and understandably so. The psalmist asserts again and again that God is guiding and protecting us. Even when the world seems the most dire (in the darkest valley), our Creator is there with us and for us. We need not fear.
“Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” —verses 10-14
Like Psalm 23, Psalm 27 declares that we can take comfort in God when things are bleak. But where 23 speaks broadly, in Psalm 27 the psalmist calls out in the midst of a very real, very specific situation. This psalm demonstrates what it’s like to fully rely on God, rather than do depend on ourselves. “Take heart and wait for the Lord.”
"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." —verses 17-20
Psalm 34 recounts the experience of continually calling out to God—for safety, for justice, for comfort—and the faithful and wonderful deeds God responds with. Troubles and sorrows are realities of life, but when we live out of faith rather than fear, we assert that these troubles will not have the final say.
Psalms of Gratitude
Contrasted against our moments of hardship, our lives also contain moments of great blessing. In times of celebration, triumph, and joy we can give thanks to our Creator for the provision and love we have received. Psalms of gratitude and thanksgiving help to orient us toward God when life is at its best.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” —verses 11-12
Psalm 30 glorifies and gives thanks to God in the aftermath of a season of hardship. The dark night of the soul gives way to the dawn of a new day; God is good. This psalm illustrates that joy and praise are natural responses to gratitude. When we reflect upon and acknowledge the ways in which we have been blessed, what can we do but sing joyfully to God?
“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.” —verses 1-5
Beginning with the title, “A psalm of thanksgiving,” Psalm 100 is a clear passage to turn to for one looking to reflect on gratitude. Like Psalm 30, Psalm 100 presents gratitude as an essential posture of faith. We have been created by God and God continues to show us grace and love; there is so much to be grateful for.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” —verses 13-16
Building on similar themes as Psalm 100, Psalm 121 marvels at the way our God knows each of us completely. God has a plan and purpose for us all, and that plan has been in the making long before we were born. To be a prized creation of the ultimate Creator is miraculous. We can give thanks because God's love endures forever.
Psalms for Hope
The psalms of comfort and gratitude we’ve considered up to this point have primarily been concerned with the past and the present. They reflect on the faithfulness God has shown in the past and they cry out (or celebrate) in the present, assured that God is here now. The final type of psalm we’ll reflect upon are psalms of hope, and they look to the future. These are psalms that anticipate the best that is yet to come—the kingdom of God.
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” —verses 3-6
The psalmist paints a picture of wonder and beauty that come from a life of faith. When we commit ourselves to living well—when we seek to draw closer to God—we can rest assured that peace awaits us. We will be with the Lord forever.
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.” —verses 4-6
Psalm 46 celebrates the sovereignty of God. God created everything in this world and it is God who will renew and restore it. We can place our hope in our Creator and in the unfailing love and care God shows us every day of our lives.
"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves." —verses 1-2
In God, we find refuge; He is our Creator and Sustainer. We are reminded that ultimately, God is in control. Whatever plans we make are secondary to the will of the Lord. Praising God through psalms such as Psalm 127 reminds us that strive for a willing spirit, awaiting not our own purposes but God's.
The Psalms are some of the most-read portions of scripture for a reason. No matter the season or circumstances of our lives, we can find encouragement and inspiration within these Bible verses and throughout scripture. The Lord watches over us in all that we do and sends the Holy Spirit to sustain and strengthen us. Take comfort. Give thanks. Hold on to hope. Our God is good and righteous.