Thanksgiving in times of trouble – Psalm 77

                Life is very hard and it is sometimes very difficult for us to be thankful. During the Thanksgiving season, we tend to put on a good front. We smile and give testimony of the things we are thankful for; yet, deep in our hearts, we are suffering. We have burdens that no one else understands. Our souls are in despair. These our troubling times in which we live. There are many hurting people. The question to consider is; how can we be thankful in the midst of times of trouble? The Psalmist is Psalm 77 gives us the answer. Anguish of soul. In the first ten verses of the Psalm, Asaph describes the anguish of his soul:

“I cried out to God with my voice—To God with my voice; And He gave ear to me.

2      In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;

My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;

My soul refused to be comforted.

3      I remembered God, and was troubled;

I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.

Selah

4      You hold my eyelids open;

I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

5      I have considered the days of old,

The years of ancient times.

6      I call to remembrance my song in the night;

I meditate within my heart,

And my spirit makes diligent search.

7      Will the Lord cast off forever?

And will He be favorable no more?

8      Has His mercy ceased forever?

Has His promise failed forevermore?

9      Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?

Selah

10     And I said, “This is my anguish;

But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”[1]

Here we find a man who is deeply troubled. He is so disturbed that he has spent many sleepless nights. He is overwhelmed by the trials of his life and he brings his complaints to the Lord. Roger Ellsworth sheds light on why the Psalmist is so disturbed, “Why was he so deeply disturbed? It all came about from his considering the past (v. 5). And what was there about the past that caused him to be so despondent? Was there some glaring failure there? Surprisingly enough, the past was good. It was a time in which he had enjoyed ‘a song in the night’ (v. 6).This is puzzling. Why would a good past cause Asaph to be so exercised? And the answer is that it made him sharply conscious of how his present circumstances did not measure up. He could look at the past and see marvelous instances of God at work in his life and in the lives of those around him. But the present seemed to be utterly devoid of such instances. It was of such a nature that it appeared as if God had cast him off for ever (v. 7), had decided to be favorable no more (v. 7), had caused his mercy to cease for ever (v. 8), had failed to keep what he had promised (v. 8), had forgotten to be gracious (v. 9) and had, in anger, locked up all his tender mercies and thrown away the key (v. 9).”[2] Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever had times in your life when you felt as if God was no longer there for you? Have you ever felt that maybe God has forgotten about you? We all have such burdens. Some of you are struggling in your marriage. You can remember the ‘good times’ when you and your spouse shared so much and enjoyed each other. Comparing the present situation with the past has caused great despair in your life. Some of you are struggling financially. You remember times when things were much easier, but now, you are worried that you may lose everything. As a pastor, I also have many burdens. The weight of responsibility and the concern for the lives of those in our church is sometimes more than I can bear. There are many nights when I am awake in the bed praying for those in the church who have become lukewarm and are filled with apathy toward the church and the things of God. I am often burdened over those whom I know can do so much better, yet, they are falling so short. I am also burdened over those whose hearts are hard to the Gospel and week in and week out they continue to resist. The lack of vision and excitement in the church also weighs heavy upon me. I am often very troubled over such complacency and lack of commitment. Not to mention the personal burdens I bear with everyday life and family issues and responsibilities. I am not alone with such burdens. Many of you share the same concerns that I have. Some of you also have the burden of physical problems. Sickness and disease has taken its toll on you and sometimes you wonder why God would allow you to suffer so much. The bottom line is that we can all relate to the words of the Psalmist when he says, ‘this is my anguish.’ Remembrance of God’s greatness. As the Psalmist shares his anguish, he now turns his attention to the greatness of God.

“I will remember the works of the Lord;

Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

12     I will also meditate on all Your work,

And talk of Your deeds.

13     Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;

Who is so great a God as our God?

14     You are the God who does wonders;

You have declared Your strength among the peoples.

15     You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,

The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.16The waters saw You, O God;

The waters saw You, they were afraid;

The depths also trembled.

17     The clouds poured out water;

The skies sent out a sound;

Your arrows also flashed about.

18     The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;

The lightnings lit up the world;

The earth trembled and shook.

19     Your way was in the sea,

Your path in the great waters,

And Your footsteps were not known.

20     You led Your people like a flock

By the hand of Moses and Aaron.”[3]

  In these verses, we find four things that Psalmist remembers which causes him to be thankful  even in the midst troubled times. The first thing the Psalmist remembers is the wonders and works of God. He says that he will remember God’s ‘wonders of old’ and he will ‘meditate on His work.’ One of the most calming and comforting thoughts is the wonders of God’s creation. When we stop and look at the beauty of God’s creation, it often will cause the cares of the world to grow dim. There are many wonders of God’s creation that we can reflect on. Recently, I have gained a greater interest in such wonders and I find myself watching programs on the National Geographic Channel. Now, such programs are not always accurate and they do come from a secular world-view; however, you can learn and see some of the most amazing things in God’s creation imaginable. There was this one program where they were studying the depths of the oceans. Underneath the earth’s oceans there are mountains, valleys, and canyons. There are also many forms of life and some of which are very intelligent. At the bottom of the ocean there are creatures that have never seen the light of the sun. However, God designed them to give off their own light. Some have built in flashlights to help them find food. Others use their lights as alarm systems to alert their families of coming danger. A group of scientist took a camera down to the ocean floor and filmed these spectacular creatures. What they found was amazing. These animals gave the best light show that you could ever see. It was the biggest and brightest display of light ever. It was bigger than any fourth of July firework show and greater than stars in the heavens. It was amazing. Such spectacular beauty is being displayed right now under the ocean! Not only do we have the oceans, but we have amazing views on land and in the sky. God is good! His creation is amazing. When I see the wonders of God, I find myself speechless. To think that God holds all of this together is simply mind-boggling. A second thing that the Psalmist remembers is God’s work in the sanctuary. The word sanctuary refers more specifically to everywhere that God is. He is the omnipresent God. His work takes place everywhere. However, in our modern minds, we often think of the sanctuary as the place of our worship or more particularly, the church. In order to be thankful in the midst of times of trouble, we not only should remember the wonders of God’s creation, but also remember how God has worked in His church in the past. Remember the days of revival. Remember the times when God moved in very real and special ways. As we do, we are reminded that the God who worked and moved amongst us in the past is the same God we serve today. If He can do the miraculous in the past, He can certainly do the miraculous today. A third thing that the Psalmist remembers is God’s redemptive work. The Psalmist is speaking as to the time when God delivered the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. God redeemed His people. Jesus Christ redeemed us on the cross. He paid the ultimate price of sin and He set us free from the bondage of sin. My friend, in troubled times, never forget how Christ saved you. Never forget His grace and love. Never forget where you would be if it were not for the love and grace of God given to us through His Son on the cross of Calvary. Keith Brooks wrote, “Whatever else may be forgotten, the marvelous works of the Lord Jesus in the days of old must not be suffered to be forgotten, for the memory of the cross is always the handmaid for faith and the foundation of all true prayer.”[4] There is comfort and peace found in the cross. Never forget the cross. A final remembrance that came to the mind of the Psalmist was God’s power. In verses 16-20 we have a poetic description of when God rescued the children of Israel from the Egyptians as He parted the water and paved the way for them to cross on dry land. This is certainly a display of God’s power. When life gets you down and you struggle to be thankful, remember the power of God. We serve an omnipotent God who can do anything. He is the all-powerful God. There is absolutely nothing that God cannot do. If He can calm the waves of the sea, He can calm the storms in your life. If He can part the waters, He can open up the doors for your life. If He can shut the lion’s mouth, He can quiet your accusers. If He can raise the dead, He can take away your sickness. There’s absolutely nothing in this life that we face, that we cannot endure when Jesus is on our side. His power reaches from the brightest star to the lowliest of all creatures. He can do it all. He is God! Remembering His power, gives us the hope that we need to carry on. Knowing that God can see us through, we have the confidence that we can do anything through Christ who strengthens us! This thanksgiving, do not allow your soul to be anguished. Look at all the wonderful things that God has done and all that He is. Don’t give up on God, because He never gives up on you. Get your eyes off of the circumstance you are in and get your eyes on the one who can do it all. When we remember, the cares of this world grows dim and our hearts can be truly thankful.    

 

 

 


[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Ps 77:1–10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[2] Ellsworth, R. (2006). Opening up Psalms (pp. 67–68). Leominster: Day One Publications.
[3] The New King James Version. (1982). (Ps 77:16–20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[4] Brooks, K. (2009). Summarized Bible: Complete Summary of the Old Testament (p. 127). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
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