From Hopelessness to Confident Hope: Psalm Wednesday

Some problems can seem so huge that we question even God’s ability to help. An immense feeling of hopelessness draws us into a darkness so vast that we sometimes cannot see any light at all. I have been there with my heart fluttering from fear and wondered if anything would ever change or if I destined to always walk alone in the darkness.

It was reflecting on Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 6:25-34 that convinced me that God does see and hear our cries, and helped me recognize that while we are despairing, God is working in the invisible realm to fix the problem. In the psalm today, Psalm 77, the psalmist wondered if God had changed and was no longer listening to or willing to help His people.

But through reflecting on God’s power in one of Israel’s darkest moment, he transitioned from hopelessness to  confident hope. This psalm teaches us the importance of being grounded in God’s word, so that when the darkness descends, we can reflect on what God has done in the past, either for His people or for us, and ascend out of the depths of despair, having our hopes renewed.

Psalm 77:1-6 I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan,  overwhelmed with longing for his help. You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now.

There is no mention of what the problem was that brought Asaph to such a moment of hopelessness and whether it was a personal issue or a corporate one for his people. The problem was intense enough to cause him to lose sleep, and, because he perceived that God was not listening to his prayers, he had stopped trying to pray. He remembered when times were good, but those days appeared to be over.

Psalm 77:7-10 Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion? Interlude And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.”

These verses are difficult to read, for you can feel the anguish and confusion in the questions that basically scream to the universe, “Where is God? Has He changed and is no longer compassionate, caring, gracious, and loving?” He concluded that nothing was going to change, and that whatever the problem, it was “his fate” to continue to endure it.

There is nothing more painful for the human heart, mind, and soul than to believe that nothing can be done, even praying to God, to affect change when you are in the midst of an intense trial, whether it is sickness, the addiction of a loved one, a marriage on the verge of divorce, or joblessness. It is particularly hard for God’s people to reconcile God’s qualities when it seems that He will not intervene and bring about a favorable ending.

But, God said to Malachi in Malachi 3:6, ““I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.” Furthermore, the psalmist should have remembered what Moses wrote in Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” It is in his time of reflection that the psalmist would come to remember the greatness and power of God, and his attitude would start to change.

Psalm 77:11-14 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.

The psalmist recalled what he knew about the ways, deeds, mighty works, wonders, and amazing power of the God of Israel, the great I AM, and you can feel the shift in his attitude, as the despair has been replaced with something approaching delight. It is important to note here that, although the problem had not been resolved, the way the psalmist saw God had changed. Hope is possible in the midst of our trials when we shift our focus from what is happening to us to the One who will work for us.

Reflection is necessary, even when there are no troubles, but, it is absolutely imperative when trials come. When I look back and remember how God delivered me, fears and anxieties flee and patient endurance begins, as I remember that He is still God. Reflection allows us to never forget that there is no God like our God and that there is nothing too hard for Him.

Too often, we place our hope in our jobs, wealth, and our stuff, rather than in the God who created the universe. But, Psalm 135: 15-18 states, “The idols of the nations are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and mouths but cannot breathe. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.” They are simply useless in trials and tribulations.

Psalm 77: 15-20 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Interlude When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled! The sea quaked to its very depths. The clouds poured down rain; the thunder rumbled in the sky. Your arrows of lightning flashed. Your thunder roared from the whirlwind; the lightning lit up the world! The earth trembled and shook. Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters—a pathway no one knew was there! You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep, with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.

The psalmist chose the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea as evidence of God’s power and love. What great imagery he created! It is like watching a televised version of the Exodus in High Definition in our minds!  The sea, the clouds, the thunder, and the lightning worked together to create a road in the midst of the sea for God’s people to escape the bondage of slavery in Egypt, proving that even the wind and the waves obey His will.

This psalm is so needed today, for there seems to be great feelings of hopelessness in our land, due to the divisiveness and renewed acts of racism and hate for people who think different, without a middle ground in our ideologies. But, as people of God, we must not grieve like those without hope. Instead, we must remember that God can do all things, so we should not place our hope in politicians or any other humans.  Whatever the problems you may be enduring, remember that God still specializes in things that seem impossible. I am a living witness!

There is a wonderful song we used to sing at church called Count Your Blessings, and it states,”Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God has done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your many blessings, see what God has done. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

In times of darkness when we can’t imagine a good ending to the situation, let us look back and reflect on the goodness of God and on His works and character. Then, our attitudes will change from hopelessness to confident hope, and from despair to delight.

 

Daily Addictions prompt is Flutter.

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