DUNCAN/Comfort in trouble

DUNCAN/Comfort in trouble


If you have your Bibles, please open them with me to Psalm 77. This Psalm is one of those Psalms that teaches us how to live the Christian life in the darkest of days. We learn here that when we are wrapped in despondency and at the edge of all hope, we must do three things. In verses 1 – 3 we learn that we must look up to the throne. In verses 4 – 10 we learn to look into our hearts and face our deepest fears. And finally in verses 11 – 20 we learn to look back to the future.

I. Up to the Throne 

First, we must look up to the throne. In verses 1 – 3 we find the burdened believer’s cry of distress, “My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.” Notice these loud cries. If this man had been praying in his house, nobody in his house would have been unaware of it! With loud cries he lifts his voice, he remonstrates with God. This reminds us that our prayer needs to be earnest and verbal in these dark nights of the soul. The psalmist is telling us that the days of his trouble were days of prayer, and that’s a great lesson for us. Our mourning, our sighing, our complaint does no good until we lift that mourning and sigh and complaint up to the throne. And that’s what the psalmist did. He took his mourning and his sighs and his complaints, his troubles, his darkness, to God. 

And notice his words, “My soul refused to be comforted.” When God did not answer, when he didn’t feel like his prayer was getting through, he didn’t stop praying. He didn’t slacken. He refused any comfort apart from the word of God, and Christians who have learned the secret of prayer are inflamed, not weakened, by the lack of an immediate answer.

And then he utters these dark words in verse 3, “When I remember God, then I am disturbed; When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint.” He is so low that at this point the very thought of God troubles him. He doesn’t know what God is doing. He can’t explain it; he’s puzzled by what’s happening in his life. He feels far from God, as if the Lord is against him. It is a dreadful thing when the thought of God disturbs. There is no trouble more grievous to the soul. And yet, perhaps some of you know exactly where the psalmist was. But even when we feel that our trouble emanates from the throne of God itself, even when we are troubled by our thoughts of the One who is on the throne, we must run straightway up to that throne and spread our broken hearts before Him and beg for His help.

II. Into the Heart 

But then you’ll also notice in verses 4 – 10 how the believer now turns into his own heart, and he examines himself and admits the questions that are circulating in his inner man. We’ve gotten a hint of his anguish, but now he is going to express to us his deepest inner doubts and questionings. He starts off by saying, “You have held my eyelids open….” Sleepless nights are no new thing, are they? He lays in bed pondering questions like, “Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious?” The psalmist has turned in to examine his own heart, and he is allowing himself to ask the hard questions that are realities in his soul.

Now, the true believer will ultimately reject the conclusions of unbelief in answer to these questions, but the psalmist’s honesty compels him to lay these questions before the Lord. Very often we think the Christian life isn’t supposed to be filled with hard things that make us think like this — dark nights of the soul, wounds, and disappointments — and so we try and cope, when we ask these questions, with denial. But that is not God’s way. We must own our brokenness and our unbelief, and our fears and our failures; we must look deep into our hearts and face them, and then take them up to the throne.

III. Back to the Future 

Then, if you notice, lastly, in verses 11 – 20, he goes in his next step back to the future. In these verses we see a burdened believer’s sanctified remembrance of the Lord’s past works, “I shall remember the deeds of the Lord,” he says. The psalmist is showing us the way out of the pit. If you are going to experience divine comfort amid trial, then you are going to have to meditate on God’s deliverances. And so the psalmist says, “I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Thy wonders of old.” He’s going to remember and reflect on what God has done in the past.

And then you’ll notice in verses 13 – 15 that the psalmist is lost in the character of God. He says, “Your way, O God, is holy.” In other words, “God, the way that You do things is the right way. I accept that. I see how you dealt with me in the past. I see how You’ve dealt with Your people in the past. The way that You deal with us is the right way.” And then he meditates on God’s character. God is what? Holy. God is what? He is great. The psalmist first reflects on God’s past dealings with His people and with him, and then he turns to meditate on God Himself, and he meditates until he believes, and he thinks until he knows, and he seeks until he finds, and he prays until he is able to feel it in his bones. He surmises that if God can shepherd His people through the Red Sea, then God can shepherd him, even in the valley of the shadow of death.

But there’s a great irony for those of us struggling and looking for comfort today, and that great irony is that we have something far greater to look back to that brings us comfort. In fact, we don’t look back to it, we look up to it — and that is the cross. The new covenant believer runs to the cross, and we find there an even deeper comfort, because we find when we look to the cross that the antidote to our sin and to our grief was in what the Lord Jesus Christ absorbed. When we realize that, we suddenly understand that we ourselves have never been where this psalmist describes. In fact, this psalmist has never been where he describes. The only One who has been there is Jesus. This Psalm, lacking comfort in bitter darkness, only measures up to Jesus’ experience, because He’s been there for us.

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