_ “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favourable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
Psalm 77 v 7 – 9
Psalm 77 is one of Asaph’s and as in all of his Psalms he’s brutally honest about his emotions and feelings. And if you’re reading this as a Christian then you’ve probably asked the same questions as Asaph. When trouble, sorrow, hardship, pain and suffering come your way and dark times come for your soul and the presence of God that seemed so close before is hidden from sight and all you thought certain is now unstable then you will ask along with Asaph: “Will God spurn me forever and never again be favourable? Has the steadfast love of God forever ceased? Have his promises come to an end? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in his anger shut up his compassion?”
_ In the darkest of time we ask ourselves these questions. The love of God which we used to be so sure about is now a debateable prospect. And usually what makes the whole situation worse is that:
“…my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints.”
Psalm 77 v 3
We seek God to ask him our questions and instead of an answer we can find silence, instead of peace we find anguish, instead of joy we find yet more darkness and when we remember God it only causes us to moan because we realize that we are missing his presence and when we mediate on him our spirit faints because God is hidden from our sight.
I have been through such times when to pray was to go away feeling worse than before and yet I had to pray because I had no one else to turn to except God. My soul could find no comfort for I could not find my Father God. My experience was not unique as this Psalm proves and it would be rare if a Christian didn’t go through a period of darkness at some point.
There is no easy solution and no easy answer to the questions Asaph asks. For though we can ‘know’ that the steadfast love of God never fails, his promises are always kept and there is always grace in abundance to be found in God we can struggle to believe it in the darkness. We are creatures of the present and often our circumstances dictate so much of how we view God.
If we continue to read through Psalm 77 we find Asaph turns and looks back to the past. In his struggle to trust in the love of God he remembers all that God has done:
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.”
Psalm 77 v 11 – 15
In the night time of the soul then it is good to look back and recall all that God has done, to remember better days and times when God was close and we saw him working mighty deeds. During my own period of darkness then I often looked back to my time on mission in Russian, a time of great happiness and closeness to God. When despair threatened to swamp it was uplifting to remember the goodness of God in my life.
So if you’re going through troubled times and sorrow is close and all seems bleak then please, look back, remember the time you were saved, recall the goodness of God, recollect all that he has done. He is still the same God, the love which was so easy to know then is still upon you, his grace which was so gloriously rich is still the ocean you swim in.
Take heart as well for the dark times will not last forever. For six months I sat in the silence of God and yet here I am out of the darkness and thankful to God who kept me where otherwise I would have fallen away. With hindsight I see just how much God must love me to put me through such darkness for as Peter says about trails and suffering: “These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1 v 7) You will emerge, in the perfect timing of God, into the light again with a faith that has only got stronger.
“Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.”
Psalm 77 v 19
It is good as well to know that God is still working in the darkness, though you might not see him he has not forsaken you for he cannot. As Asaph writes God is powerful enough to make paths through great waters but he often move unseen, we don’t know what he is doing, we don’t know what’s just around the corner and we don’t know what great and wonderful mercies he has in store for us. It is often though not always the case that periods of darkness come before great times of blessing.
Above all, keep reading the Word, keeping searching for God painful though it might be, don’t give up, take heart and wait on God. I found it necessary to find a single Bible verse and cling to it as a child might cling to his blanket. My faith was too weak to do anything more. Find the low hanging fruit of God’s Word for he knows that we are dust and has littered his Word with encouragement and verses to inspire hope.
“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”
Lamentations 3 v 31 – 33
I close with a hymn that expresses much truth:
“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”