We are living in difficult days. We have been living in difficult days for a couple of years now. People are losing hope and it is leading to some dark places. I was reading some information on the CDC website today on the number of suicide attempts by teens over the past two years. I was shocked by the information. Among 12-17 year olds, during the period of March 29 – April 25 of 2020, there were 540 ER visits by teens suspected of attempting suicide. 408 of them were girls and 132 were boys. During the period of July 26 – August 22 of 2020, the number was 665. 519 were girls and 146 were boys. During the period of February 21 – March 20 of 2021, the number was 1,052. 856 were girls and 196 were boys. These are shocking numbers. The total number of attempts nearly doubled among teens during the pandemic. There was a 108% increase of attempts among teen girls. There was only about a 50% increase among teen boys over the same period. Our young people need a miracle.
The writer of Psalm 77 lived through some difficult days. It impacted him in a very negative way. The good news is, he found hope when there seemed to be no hope. He needed a miracle from the Lord and he received it. Let’s examine this psalm to see what we can learn and apply to our current circumstances in 2022.
I. Difficult circumstances and a distorted view of reality
When human beings live under psychological pressure day in and day out, it leads to some very dark places in our minds. The writers of the Bible, directed by God, were people just like we are today. The lived and rejoiced, as well as suffered just like we do today.
1 My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; My soul refused to be comforted. (Psalm 77)
As I mentioned earlier, the writer of this psalm lived through some troubling times, just like we all do. How we respond to those difficult circumstances makes all the difference. The writer of this psalm, because of the trouble he was facing, began to have a warped view of reality. He could not be comforted. He was inconsolable. Comfort was there because our God is the God of all comfort but the psalmist was not able to experience that comfort. God always offers us help but we have to receive that help. When your mind is warped because of difficult circumstances, you may forget to reach out for help, having already convinced yourself that there is no hope.
When I remember God, then I am disturbed; When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. (Psalm 77:3)
The psalmist had remained in that distorted state of reality for so long that he had grown weary and was ready to give up completely. Even when he tried to search for hope in the Lord, he was distracted by the difficult circumstances. He could not focus long enough to cry out to the Lord for help. He got to the point where trying seemed pointless. Have you ever been there? I sure know that I have. I would be willing to bet that there are many teens around us in that same state.
7 Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again?
8 Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious, Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? (Psalm 77)
The longer that the psalmist remained in this state of altered reality, the worse things began to seem. He felt as if he had been rejected, even by God, his Creator. Have you ever felt rejected? It is not a pleasant feeling. Even if everyone else around you rejects you, God will never reject you. Remaining in an altered state of reality too long though, can lead you to have negative thoughts like the fact that maybe even God has rejected you. This is where the psalmist was in his frame of mind. He has begun to throw himself a pity party, thinking things like he will never be accepted by others again and he will never be pleasing to anyone else, ever again. Have you ever gone there in your thoughts? I bet that there are teens all around us who are there right now in their thoughts. The psalmist has gone full pessimist, wondering if God is kind and if He really will keep His promises. He has forgotten of all of the promises that God has made and kept. If He has made a promise that has yet to be fulfilled, don’t worry, simply have confidence that He keeps His promises. It is like when the serpent came and tempted the woman in the Garden of Eden. He tried to get the woman to focus on the one tree that she could not have instead of the multitude of trees that she could have. This is what a mind distorted by difficult circumstances will do. The psalmist has gotten to the point where he questions if anyone will ever be nice, including God and if it is even possible for others to feel compassion. This is a very dark and dangerous place. The psalmist needs a miracle before things simply spiral out of control.
Then I said, “It is my grief, That the right hand of the Most High has changed.” (Psalm 77:10)
This word grief in verse 10 is key to understanding what is happening to the psalmist because of his response to negative circumstances. A synonym for this word that is translated as grief from the original Hebrew could be polluted, defiled, or corrupted. This type of thinking and attitude will pollute your mind and lead you down a very dark and dangerous path. The psalmist had walked deep down this dark and dangerous path. I bet that there are teens all around us who are also on this dark and dangerous path right now. Is there hope for the hopeless on this path? Will the psalmist stay on this dark and dangerous path? Let’s find out.
II. Hope for the hopeless
A shift takes place in verse 11 of this psalm and it makes all the difference.
11 I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12 I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
15 You have by Your power redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. (Psalm 77)
The psalmist finally shook off the fog of distorted thinking due to the terrible circumstances. He remembered the Lord, especially all of the good deeds of the Lord. He remembered the miracles of old. This is a reference to the way that God interacted in human history as written down in the Old Testament. He chooses to meditate on the Word of God. This reminds me of Psalm 1:2
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
The psalmist’s mind was filled with negative thoughts and he decided to fill his mind with the Word of God and that made all of the difference. The psalmist needs to be rescued from this dangerous state of mind and he remembers that God saves (rescues) His people. He has done it before. He can do it now and He will do it in the future. No matter where you are, God can reach down to you and rescue you. Turn your eyes to Him. Open up His Word and let His Word fill your mind. It will change your outlook on any circumstance.
III. An Old Testament Example
If we turn to the book of First Kings and read chapter 18, we discover a miracle performed by the Lord on behalf of Elijah. Elijah was in a bad situation. God told Elijah to go to the wicked king Ahab and rebuke him for leading the children of Israel into idolatry. Then, Elijah was to pray that it would not rain. Elijah obeyed and the rain stopped for three and a half years. Because there was no rain, the crops failed and there was a famine in the land. King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, began to have the prophets of God put to death. Elijah is on the run for his life. He gets depressed and wants to die. In the midst of his despair, the Lord lifts Elijah’s spirits. Then, the Lord commands Elijah to go to king Ahab and have a showdown. The 850 false prophets who served Ahab were to offer a sacrifice on an altar and pray to their gods to send down fire to burn the offering. Then, Elijah would do the same. The false prophets cried out to their gods all day and nothing happened. They even began cutting themselves hoping that would help. Then, just before nightfall, Elijah prepared a sacrifice and placed it on the Lord’s altar. Then, he covered everything in pitchers of water three different times. After that, Elijah prayed to the Lord and God sent fire down that burned the sacrifice, the altar, the water around the altar, and the ground. It was a miracle from the Lord and it changed everything. Elijah trusted the Lord and he was lifted out of his despair and was used by God to lead the people back to faith in the Lord. No matter where you are or what you have done, or even what has been done to you, the Lord can rescue you, lift your spirits, and use you to accomplish great things for Him. Don’t corrupt yourself with negative thoughts. Turn to the Lord, open up His Word, and dwell on who God is and what He is able to do. It could literally save your life and change your eternity.
May the Lord help us understand this and live by it each and every day that the Lord blesses us with on this earth!