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Encouragement When You’re Still in Process with God

July 7, 2017 • Life for Leaders

Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

Psalm 77:9-11

 

A puppy struggling with a rope in a game of tug-of-war.At the beginning of Psalm 77, the psalm writer is in a major funk. He is in the middle of some terrible personal crisis and he is crying out to God for help (77:1). Yet, even when he prays for a whole night, he is not comforted (77:2). I expect most of us can relate to this discouraging experience. If you’re not there right now, you’ve been there, or you will experience it someday.

When we feel discouraged, when God feels distant, when we run out of prayers, what should we do? Psalm 77 answers this question, but not in a way we might expect.

In the midst of his disappointment, the psalmist thinks of “the good old days” when his nights were filled with joyful singing rather than desperate praying (77:5-6). Yet this memory only enhances his sorrow. The comparison between past and present makes the writer wonder, “Will the Lord reject me forever?” (77:7). In this case, the psalmist’s memory of his own happy past accentuates his suffering in the present.

As the psalm progresses, however, the writer stretches his memory beyond his own experience. He remembers God’s “miracles of long ago” (77:11). He fixes his mind on the things God did in the past, especially God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (77:15-20).

As we share in the psalm writer’s memories, we expect a turn from despair to confidence and praise. We see the beginning of this change in verse 14: “You are the God who performs miracles.” Yet, Psalm 77 ends, not with celebration of God’s faithfulness or with a statement of confidence in him, but simply with a statement of remembrance: “You led your people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (77:20). That’s it. No praise. No rejoicing. Just a statement of what God did in the past.

This seems like a song without an ending. We know something else is coming, but we don’t get to enjoy it. As much as I would like to hear the happy ending of the psalmist’s story, I am nevertheless grateful that this psalm feels incomplete. It speaks to those of us who are in process with God. We’re not fully resolved in our relationship with our Lord. We live in the tension between confident faith and our own fears and disappointments. Psalm 77 gives us permission to be honest with God, to struggle, and to doubt. It also encourages us to remember, not just our own past, but also the long history of God’s saving works.

Most of all, when we wonder if God is there for us, we remember what he did in Jesus Christ. The more we remember the life, teaching, work, death, and resurrection of Christ, the more we will be able to exult with the psalmist, “You are the God who performs miracles.”

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Can you think of times in your life when you felt despair rather like that of the writer of Psalm 77?

Are you in such a time right now?

How does remembering the past help you to have confidence in God?

What enables you to recall the grace of God in Jesus Christ?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, how I thank you for the gutsy honesty of the psalms. I can relate to the despair in Psalm 77. I can relate to its unresolved character. Like the psalmist, I am indeed a person in process, in process with you.

Help me, O Lord, to be honest with you, to say what is true to you. Keep me from pretending and spouting empty words. Yet, even as I am truthful with you, help me also to remember your wondrous deeds from the past. Most of all, may my life be shaped by the consistent remembrance of your grace in Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryHas God Forgotten to Be Gracious?

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Psalms

One thought on “Encouragement When You’re Still in Process with God

  1. mona borden says:

    thank you mark. it’s never too amazing the alignment and confirmations the Lord confirms to me..just the other day I shared with my husband the same thing..that Jesus has reminded me of how he saw me through tough times in the past so as I can stay at peace knowing he and s at the wheel of my life and he knows how to drive better than me…a lot is revolving around my life at this time ..court cases of 4 matters of mistreatment , negligence ,bullying and misconduct..and then my responsibilities of taking care of myself and 3people with disabilities..but I focus on the lord’s face and try yo remind my self to do so … distractions occur but then there is HUS face…just thought of a lovely song from my 70’s church days – ” turn your eyes upon Jesus , look full in his wonderful face .and the email things of this world will grow strangely dim. In the light of hus glory and grace,in the light of his glory and grace “..thank you for confirming a principle Jesus has brought to me..blessings and inspirations back at you..ps. pray for your friend mona borden from australia..

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