Prepare to Listen. As you light your candle of hope, name what most concerns you today and offer it to the Lord.
Prayerfully Read Psalm 77
1 I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the LORD;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints.
4 You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago.
6 I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit:
7 ‘Will the Lord spurn for ever, and never again be favourable?
8 Has his steadfast love ceased for ever? Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?’
10 And I say, ‘It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.’
11 I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.
15 With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
When it became obvious that the coronavirus was a deadly pestilence affecting every corner of the globe, I happened to read Psalm 77. If you didn’t read it all, or read it too quickly, I urge you to read it again slowly and as a prayer. This isn’t a psalm we put to music and sing on Sundays in our worship services. As with almost all the lament psalms, it’s never read on Sundays in churches that follow the common lectionary. We’re afraid of laments, it seems. And, let’s face it, the psalmist’s nightly meditations (see vv 7-8) caused him to ask five shocking questions about God, beginning with: ‘Will the Lord spurn for ever, and never again be favourable?’ and ending: ‘Has he in anger shut up his compassion?’ Not exactly warm, uplifting or comforting questions! But the pray-er wasn’t in a comfortable place. What she’d experienced had battered her faith in God and how God works. It’s her grief and her willingness to be real that speaks.
Most Christians I know shy away from the kind thoughts expressed in this psalm, afraid they may overwhelm us. But, as the pandemic drags on, its effects get worse by the day, don’t you find yourself thinking similar questions? I know I do. This psalm reflects the pandemic’s fallout far more nearly than some of our uplifting favorite psalms. It trains us to be honest about our thoughts and feelings, giving us words to take into the presence of our God. There we’ll discover that, instead of being overwhelmed by grief we have a safe place to be honest and real.
The psalm also teaches us an important task when life throws its curveballs. Remember God’s mighty acts from of old, call to mind God’s former deeds. The psalmist did that. She remembered God’s mighty act of deliverance from Egyptian slavery (vv 16-20). If her present circumstances had her asking whether God had forgotten how to be compassionate, the story of deliverance showed her otherwise.
Remember, call to mind what God has done in the past and be assured that God will slowly lead us like a flock (v 20) to where we need to be, to what we are becoming as a result of this enforced down time.
What got your attention in this psalm of lament? What stories of God’s mighty deeds can you call to mind today? Deliberately pause during the day simply to remember a mighty act of God and bring it into your conscious thought.
Respond to Jesus
Lord, help me speak honest and true words to you, even when they’re as negative as in this psalm. Help me also call to mind all that you have done as I recall stories from your Word and ones I experienced in my own life. In your name, Amen.