I used to read, or chant, the Psalms a lot. For twenty years in the Book of Hours, twice a day at least, for Lauds and Vespers, often for Compline, as well as at Mass. These 150 "hymns" are, in a way, the Bible set to music. When the West still had a viable literary tradition --that is, writers who were aware of and appreciative of their literary roots-- you would find allusions to the Bible quite frequently. Watching a Merchant-Ivory film of a Henry James novel*, The Wings of the Dove, I heard this voiceover of Psalm 55, one of the darkest.
4My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
5Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.
6And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
7Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.
8I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.
That is the strange thing about the Psalms. Their almost manic-depressive range. Their labile moods. Groups of them are serene and confident, believing that faith and righteousness will bring a happy life. And others sing despondently of broken promises and inexplicable disaster. Not a one-dimensional collection.
And it really could only have been written by Jews, especially the complaints. Although Christians hold that God's incarnation in Jesus created a new intimacy between Creator and creatures, Judaism has its own intimate connection, the God of Israel --who eventually lays claim to being the One and Only God-- has this unique obsessive relationship to this particular ethnic group. And included in the Covenant is complaining, even accusing, when the Divine Partner fails to keep up his end of the bargain. The Jewish lawyer is not a stereotype for nothing. Psalm 88 is even darker than 55, even hostile. And although Psalm 89 has a long section of praise, it almost seems like a setup for the final verses, where King David basically indicts God for breaking his word. The Jews did and do speak up when unhappy with God. They say that He was even put on trial in Auschwitz by a rabbinical court. And not found innocent.
This is something you do not find in Christianity. I put it rather bluntly: after God crucifies his only child for you, you really lose any right to complain. In a funny way, the Christian God the Father becomes a kind of an uncritiquable Jewish mother. "After all I've done for you..." Ironically, Christ's cry of despair from the cross --My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?-- is the opening line of Psalm 22.
My problems with Christ usually have come down to feeling that it was hard to be an actual, aka fallen, human being when He was around. Certainly one of the comforting strengths of the Old Testament is that all the holy people have flaws. The doings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon and their kin...all fodder for a huge family therapy session. I used to joke that the Christian Holy Family of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St Joseph would make even the Waltons look abusive and dysfunctional by comparison. Too much goodness is not good for us.
The (Calvinist) Genevan Psalter
So the emotion-besotted Psalms of David*, especially (and strangely) beloved of monks and Calvinists, can present problems for a lot of Christians, or anyone who prefers being spiritual to being religious and who expects a sacred book, especially one called The Good Book, to be filled with nothing but monochromatic light and peace and love and joy and caring and sharing. The Happy Sutra it ain't.
*Contemporary scholars believe that the Psalter is a collection of hymns from a variety of sources, with David being an author, but not the author, of them.
*Curious, I checked the novel and the psalm is not there. An addition in the film.