Saturday, June 25, 2016

Four ropes out of a dark place

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TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 77:1-20

"And I said, 'This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.'" Psalm 77:10

The writer of this psalm ("A psalm of Asaph") begins in a desperate place:
He "cried to the Lord." He "sought the Lord" in the "day of trouble." He is restless and sleepless: "My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing … You hold my eyelids open." He can't find comfort anywhere: "My soul refused to be comforted…" He feels irritated and overcome: "I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed." He is so anguished "… I cannot speak." He is also full of questions:
- "Will the Lord cast off forever?
- "Will He be favourable no more?
- "Has His mercy ceased forever?
- Has His promise failed forevermore?
- "Has God forgotten to be gracious?
- "Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?"
 (quotes from Psalm 77:1-9).

What happened to make him so troubled?

The Bible doesn't tell us. But if we've ever experienced something like a bad diagnosis, a life-altering natural disaster, the untimely death of a child (and I could go on...) we can probably relate to his feelings.

Aspah comes out of his dark valley, though. Verse 10 is the pivot point where we see him turn around and start to move up. "But" is the hinge word that signals he's changing direction: "This is my anguish. But, I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High."

He goes on to recall details of times when he knew God was for him, to dwell on them, and take action to turn his attitude around. We could compare the four things he does to ropes a rock climber would use to climb out of a valley:

- "I will remember the years of the right hand of the most high … the works of the Lord… Your wonders of old."

- "I will meditate on all your work…"

- "And talk of your deeds."

- Walk (implied) - "Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary…" (quotes from Psalm 77:10-13).

In the remainder of the psalm (Psalm 77:14-20), Asaph alludes to the wonders God has performed for Israel in the past—historic events and stories that remind him that God is real and capable. He takes his own advice as he remembers, meditates, and talks.

I wonder if we could use Asaph's method to similarly rise out of our desperate places? Next time we are in deep trouble—indeed any time we're discouraged and down, let's:
  • Remember - God's goodness to us and His help in the past.
  • Meditate - on all He does and has done. What is the meaning of it? What does it tell us about who God is?
  • Talk - tell our memories and express the fruit of our meditation in words (if not actual conversation, we could journal them).
  • Walk - go to a place where we'll be built up: church, our home group, the company of a supportive believing friend.

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You that psalm writers were human just like I am, and that they experienced times of trouble and desperation. Help me to follow Asaph's actions next time I feel overwhelmed by circumstances. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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