When in Trouble…

Psalm 77 gives us a perfect prescription for what to do when we’re in trouble. The first nine verses recount Asaph’s lament and teach us that even the most faithful of God’s people experience doubt and despair. He speaks of endless weary nights of trouble, putting forth honest questions about God’s character. “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased?” Psalm 77:7-8

But then there’s a big turn that happens in verse 10. “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this…'” What Asaph does beginning here in verse 10 is deliberately turn his attention back to who God is and what he has done. You can almost imagine a pounding of the fist as he urges himself toward God in verse 11:

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.”

What deeds and wonders will Asaph bring to mind? He reminds himself of the greatest deliverance in Israel’s history: the Exodus. God is the wonder working God who brings redemption to his people. He speaks of the waters of the Red Sea being afraid of God and his lightnings lighting up the world. The whole earth responds at his command. After recounting and meditating on all God has done, Asaph is able to rest his weary hands that have been stretched out in prayer night after night and instead glory in God’s mighty and faithful hand that worked such a powerful deliverance.

What Asaph did in Psalm 77 is a pattern we all should learn and practice for those times when we get lost amidst the suffering we’ll inevitably endure in this life. I don’t know what Asaph was going through, but for me, right now, I’m at the beginning of a long journey of cancer treatment. I’m on the outskirts of a kind of suffering I’ve never experienced and I’m already seeing how it can easily make me forget what I already know about God. So I’m reminding myself of God’s character, specifically, his knowledge and power over all things, big and small. Here’s a sampling of what his Word tells me:

God knows the number and names of all the stars. Psalm 147:4 “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” 

God appoints plants and worms and winds. Jonah 4:6, 7, 8 “Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah…But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant…When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind…”

God takes notice of every sparrow and numbers the hairs on your head. Luke 12:6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”

From stars to worms to hairs and sparrows, he knows. And if he governs the large and the small, he also governs the microscopic. He governs my cancer. I don’t fully understand that but what is the alternative? The alternative is chance or chaos. And I’d rather be content not fully understanding God’s ways than panicked and without hope thinking that it’s all out of control.

So when you’re in trouble, learn from Asaph. Urge your soul forward towards the Lord. Remember who he is and remember his deeds. His understanding is unsearchable and he is still sovereign.

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