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Book Review: Shaped By God – Thinking and Feeling in tune with the psalms

Book Review: Shaped By God – Thinking and Feeling in tune with the psalms


Scripture teaches us so much about our emotions. As we spend time in God’s word, we learn that we have been given emotions so that we may worship and connect with God.

When it comes to emotions, there is the tendency to fall in two opposite directions.

One line of thought is that emotions are everything, they dictate what we do and add meaning to everything. The other line of thought is that emotions are not valid, we must avoid them, push them aside or remain strong and silent. While hyper-emotionalism and stoicism are both visible throughout our culture, they are evidenced in our lives a Christians too. There can be the pressure to have strong emotional responses to the music and particular events, or the pressure to continue to smile and worship in the midst of tragedy.

Scripture reveals another way.

It shows us that there is more to emotions than how much or how little we experience them. God has given them to us as a gift. A gift so that we may worship him. Through scripture we learn that our emotions engage us with our heavenly father and with one another. They bring the truths of scripture and the promises of our father into the experiences of our lives.

As we spend time in our bible we see how all of scripture stirs our heart. When we turn to the psalms, our heart is placed in the centre. The thoughts and feelings of the psalmists are intended to engage with our own thoughts and feelings. We are no longer listening to the story, instead we are hearing and feeling the cries of distress and affliction, the shouts of joy and the weight of discouragement. Our own experiences connect with the experiences recorded on the pages of the psalms.

Shaped by God

John Piper wrote the book Shaped by God  – thinking and feeling in tune with the psalms,with the knowledge that psalms do more than instruct and equip us. Over and above all the other books of the bible, the psalms are intended to awaken our hearts, shaping and forming us as we read and sing the words found on the pages. God wants more than actions that fit with his commands for us, he wants our hearts. He wants us to worship him with our whole heart, soul and mind. As we read the psalms and sing the rhymed versions, our hearts are restored.

“My aim in this book is God-centered, Christ-exalting, Psalms-saturated thinking and feeling. I believe this kind of thinking and feeling will bear fruit in the kind of living that cares for people and magnifies Christ.” – John Piper

Shaped by God is a small book, broken into six chapters. Each chapter reflects on a different psalm, pulling out the dominant emotions expressed on the pages. Different types of psalms have been chosen so that the six psalms provide a snapshot of the whole book of psalms.

Bible Study and Encouragement

As each chapter focusses on a different psalm, this book will work as a great structure for bible study. I moved through the pages as my own personal bible study and found my understanding of how my emotions connect me with my Lord and Saviour really deepened. You could also work through this book across a 6 week one-to-one bible study where two of you can be encouraged by the words of the psalms and by each other as you use scripture as the foundation to step into each other’s lives and experiences. Even doing it in a small group or your typical bible study group would be a wonderful blessing and strengthening as you learn together how to align your hearts and minds with the psalms.

There is a lot to learn about our emotions and the psalms are an incredible, God-given, gift that equips and shapes us so that we may do this well. I highly recommend that you read this book.

This book is available on loan through the Trellis Library or through Pro Ecclesia bookshop.

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