To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice–To God with my voice; And He gave ear to me. 2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted. 3 I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah 4 You hold my eyelids [open]; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I have considered the days of old, The years of ancient times. 6 I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search. 7 Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? 8 Has His mercy ceased forever? Has [His] promise failed forevermore? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah 10 And I said, “This [is] my anguish; [But I will remember] the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. 12 I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds. 13 Your way, O God, [is] in the sanctuary; Who [is] so great a God as [our] God? 14 You [are] the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. 15 You have with [Your] arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah 16 The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were afraid; The depths also trembled. 17 The clouds poured out water; The skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. 18 The voice of Your thunder [was] in the whirlwind; The lightnings lit up the world; The earth trembled and shook. 19 Your way [was] in the sea, Your path in the great waters, And Your footsteps were not known. 20 You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron.PSALM 77:1-20
PRAYING IN THE DARK
NOTE: I’ve woven today’s prayer in the text of the devotional writing.
When we are born into this world, the very first thing we do is cry. As soon as we breath we are already offering a cry back to our Maker. It is safe to say that perhaps the first emotion we feel in this world is sadness. We are no longer next to the heartbeat of our mothers.
All of us in our lifetimes will experience sadness. There are moments that cause us grief. We feel lost and we feel loss. We feel depression. It is okay to feel sad. It is ok to grieve. It is okay to mourn. Sometimes it is even okay to complain. But We need to be careful how we do that.
In Psalm 77 Asaph shares his lament with us and I believe it offers us a healthy guide to vent our sadness to the Lord. Asaph says he cries out to God, so you know that he is sad. Yet even in his crying, he is confident that God will hear him. He knows that if he pours out his heart to God that God will listen…. But then it doesn’t seem like God is listening.
Have you ever been talking on the phone to someone and the other end is eerily quiet. You might even stop and ask, ”Hey are you there?” This is Asaph while he is talking to God. He is saying, “God I know you are there, but I feel like I’m having a hard time getting through tonight. I wonder if you are hearing me?” He has confidence, but he also has doubts.
Have you ever been so frustrated you didn’t know what to say… So sad, so mad, so upset, so unhappy and words can’t express it. Asaph amps up his search for God in all of this. He rehearses his bible stories. He knows about how God moved in the past. He reminds himself of who God is and how God interacts with his people.
Asaph has trouble sleeping because of the problems in his life, he remembers another time when he had no trouble staying awake, but it was to praise the Lord. God I sang your songs in the night. I didn’t want it to stop. I Didn’t want to let go. He remembers how close he was to the LORD and he is wondering where God is now? THE DOUBT And ANXIETY CREEPs IN. He asks a series of questions. The obvious answer to these questions is no, but this is what bubbles to the surface of his heart as he prays.
Here we might pause and say, “Can you say that to God?” I’d say, “Yes, he can take it.” God is big enough for our doubts and questions. The real problem is when we think these things but never give them a voice. When we struggle like this and never complain, as it were. We hold these thoughts in and only grow bitter and cold.
If we were going to pray behind Asaph here, we might say something like. “God I’m really trying to get to a better place between us. I’m doing the right things. I’m reading my bible. I’m praying. I’m singing songs about you, even when I don’t feel it… and that’s the problem. I don’t feel it. I feel like a phony and a fraud because part of me wonders if you are even listening? I know that in the bible you show up and you perform miracles. I have been close to you before. I thought you’d show up for me here as I’ve seen you show up before. What is wrong? Have you changed? Are you not who you said you are? Is it me? Have I angered you?”
Our personal experiences with God isn’t enough. We must build our prayers and our life on a surer foundation. We must have the word of God. our feelings fade, they betray us. We are not always right in how we feel.
Asaph doesn’t stay content to complain for long. He knows the answers to his questions. He knows that God has not changed. So he goes back and says that he will remember the works of the LORD. He notes specific attributes of God that he continues to see in the scripture. He is reminded that God is holy, God is all powerful, and God redeems his people.
Holy -God is perfect. Morally pure. There is no hint of error in all of his ways.
God is all powerful – There isn’t anything that God can’t do if He determined to do it. God can do what He wants, He is God. He could have done something different.
God redeems – God delivered His people time and time again. He uses the illustration of Jacob and Joseph. Both are men in history of the nation of Israel who found themselves in trouble time and again and the Lord brought them through. He delivered them. He redeemed them…. Maybe too this is where we get a glimpse of Asaph’s trouble. He calls out a father and a son. A father who mourned the loss of his son for decades thinking he was dead (Genesis 37:35).
LORD, I have no course but to consider that you are holy. There is no error in you. You know what you are doing. I must confess that you are all powerful and that you can do what you want. I also know that you are one who redeemed his people. Your heart towards me is one of redemption. So as hard as it is, I defer to you. You know what you are doing even when we cant see it.
Asaph remembers how God delivered Israel from Egypt. Israel didn’t go around the sea. They didn’t go over the sea. They didn’t stay and fight off the enemy. When all was thought to be lost, God took them through the sea! Those who were there could look and see the clouds, they could feel the rain, see the lightning, hear the thunder, anticipate the whirl wind, feel the earth shaking under their feet, and even while they didn’t see God… they knew he was there!
There was another moment like that has come since the time of Asaph. The devil was winning the battle.
- Jesus was betrayed by one of his close friends.
- The disciples abandoned Him.
- The soldiers mocked Him.
- Witnesses lied about Him.
- They marched Jesus, naked down the streets of Jerusalem.
- They beat Him and whipped Him.
- They made Him carry a cross.
- They hung Him on the cross.
- Passers by mocked Him.
- Even one of the thieves dying next to Him mocked Him.
- They spit on Him.
- He was in pain and agony.
- Jesus even cried, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” from the cross!
It looked like all was lost. It didn’t look like God was working. It didn’t look like God was moving. God couldn’t be seen. God was silent. Heaven was quiet. There wasn’t an answer. Many asked and questioned… God how could you do this? Surely you could stop it? Surely you could do something?
But was God really not there? No wait! He was! He was there all the time! His way was through the cross! Just when we would have been ready to accuse him of abandoning his people he was delivering them.
Even though God wasn’t visibly present he was leading his people like a good shepherd leads his sheep… And this is where it ends! It ends in faith!
Why didn’t Asaph just tell us to have faith? Because faith, real faith, isn’t the kind of thing that is conjured up. It’s the kind of thing that is worked out based on reality. It isn’t a leap in the dark. It’s a leap in the light to greater light. Trust God, because you have good reason.
So how do we pray this psalm now?
We pray… God I don’t know what you are doing? I feel lost. I feel like you are absent. I don’t feel your love right now. I know that you love me. I know that you care. I know that you are often moving in ways that I cannot see or feel. I can’t imagine how you might be working in my life in this moment, but I trust you. In Jesus Name, Amen.
I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.