When it’s hard to believe things will get better
Updated: Jun 20
“To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of Asaph. I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah…” Psalm 77:0-9
To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of Asaph. Psalm 77:0
Asaph the son of Berachiah [2Chronicles 6:39] along with Heman the son of Joel and Ethan the son of Kushiah were appointed by the Levites to be singers, to sound with cymbals and brass. Asaph was the chief among them, appointed by David. These were all appointed to minister before the ark of the covenant of the Lord continually as every day’s work required. [1 Chronicles 16:37] And some were separated out to prophecy [1 Chronicles 25:1] with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals. They were appointed to sing in the house of the Lord continually.
Asaph and his sons, and all those of the house of Levi, were well acquainted with the works of the Lord, studying the scriptures and being well versed in the law and the prophets. They knew well how God had led His people and provided for them from the Exodus out of Egypt through the wilderness and into the land of promise. They must also have become accustomed to hearing from God when they prayed and seeing the hand of God move on their behalf time after time.
But suddenly the voice of God seemed silent for him. He could not understand what was going on. The prayers that were being offered day and night were resulting only in an ever-worsening set of circumstances. The people were in trouble and he was suffering his own personal affliction, but there seemed to be no deliverance.
So, he prays all the more fervently. He cries out day and night for God to hear and answer him.
“I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.” “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah…” Psalm 77:1-3
Here Asaph expresses the deepest emotional struggle that comes from a sense of being left alone and forgotten by God. Though he cries out in pain and can’t find comfort anywhere, when he says, “I remembered God and was troubled…” he means he set his mind on God to try to hear something that would makes sense out of all that he was wrestling with, but it just became more overwhelming, even to think about it. Nothing was making any sense.
“Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search…” Psalm 77:4-6
He feels like God is holding his eyes open so that he cannot sleep. And all his best effort trying to make rational sense of his troubling circumstances is futile. He reaches a point where he doesn’t know what to say any more. He thinks about the past, the years when the lines of communication between him and God were clear and open, the times when the Word of the Lord came to Him quickly and without delay. He remembers the prophets of old and how the hand of God was on the people to deliver them and provide for their every need.
He remembers his song in the night. Even in the worst of times he could sing and commune with God and be assured of His presence and His favor and all would be well. Now he is searching his heart. His spirit is stirred up with in him desperately wanting to hear from God.
Then he is overcome with despair.
“Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah…” Psalm 77:7-9
Is this it? Has God abandoned me? Has He abandoned His people? Are we just lost forever? Have the covenants He made been so irreconcilably breached that we are doomed to destruction? Is there not one shred of mercy or grace left? It must be that God is so angry with us and with me that He will not hear my cries or ever answer me again. Can this be true?
In the Psalms there is often a word, Selah, at the end of a verse or series of verses that indicates a point of pausing for reflection and meditation on what has just been read before moving on.
I believe Asaph places a Selah here to allow the worshipper an opportunity to sense the depth of the anguish and despair that comes from being so utterly separated from the hand of God’s provision, favor and most of all, His presence.
There are times in our lives when there is no poetry in our suffering, no room for prosaic platitudes or soaring songs of grandiose splendor. When we feel like there is nowhere to go, no help to be found and we feel left truly alone. What then?
You find a voice deep inside that will not be silent.
“And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.” Psalm 77:10-11
Ok. I might be suffering now and things may look like there is no hope to be found. But I have a memory of how my God has preserved and sustained me. I will remember God’s mighty power that moved and delivered me and all of His people out of circumstances that would have crushed and destroyed us. I will remember how He did wondrous things on behalf of His people because of His covenant promises. I will meditate on those things and turn my mind away from the anguish and despair of this present circumstance and worship with all my heart glorifying God for what He has already done.
In the years, months and days before the Messiah came, the people remained in darkness with only the promise and a hope that one day Messiah would come. They were tough times. The world was in upheaval and evil ruled the day. The poor were easy prey for thieves and robbers. The weak were dominated and extorted by the rich and powerful. The sick were at the mercy of false healers and the plight of those without wealth or station was a continual struggle to survive. Yet many waited in hope, not willing to abandon the promises of God. They hoped beyond hope. They believed when they could not see any evidence that they could measure with their eyes or their hands. They trusted the God who through the word of the prophets, had promised to deliver them. So they waited and as they waited they remembered how the Lord had delivered them and their fathers in times past, and they praised Him for His goodness and they offered of up songs and declarations of thanksgiving for God’s good hand of favor upon them.
In times of waiting when we can’t see progress or any sign of our hope being satisfied we have a great blessing at hand to turn our hearts from hopelessness and despair, form the feeling of abandonment and sorrow to the anticipation of Joy to the world the Lord has come.
In this season of Advent we are reminded that we are no longer those who grope in darkness waiting for Messiah to come. The King has come. The Savior Jesus Christ our Lord is here and His Spirit rests upon us and resides in us with the Father and the Son. We through His blood have been made new creations in Him. Now we consider that the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.
Fear not little flock and be not dismayed. We have prayed and God has heard us. Now we wait in patient and sure hope-filled expectation of His grace to sustain us, His healing to restore us, His hand to provide for us, His strength to support us, His comfort to lift us up, His joy to be our strength and His love to transform us into the image of His dear Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
Indeed Joy to the World the Lord is Come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room. And Heaven and nature sing! And Heaven and nature sing! And Heaven and Heaven and nature sing!