by Dennis Costella
©Fundamental Evangelistic Association
The seventy-seventh Psalm provides invaluable insight for the troubled saint on how to deal with times of discouragement or even overwhelming despondency. When God seems the most distant, and spiritual peace and joy are only a faint memory, action must be taken! That is not easy, for at such a time the last thing in the world one feels like doing is taking corrective measures. It is also true that dejected believers frequently seek solutions which flagrantly disregard what the Bible has to say, in favor of what worldly wisdom claims will work. However, a compassionate Heavenly Father is just waiting for His distraught child to look to Him in his time of need.
The restoration of right fellowship with the Lord will inevitably turn our time of deepest woe into a season of praise. The Psalmist found this to be true; so will we. Satan would love for us to believe that a change in circumstances, or the removal of whatever or whoever is seemingly causing our distress, will provide relief. Not so! Although we may not believe that a Spirit-wrought revival is God's remedy, that is exactly what we so desperately need-a renewal of the presence and power of the Saviour. Christ Jesus is the only One Who can truly alleviate the problem. This blessed psalm provides wisdom that is specifically fitted for the believer who has reached rock bottom and wants God's way out.
"My Spirit Was Overwhelmed"
God had an escape for the Psalmist, and He will provide a way of escape for us today. The Psalmist could only see his situation as "the day of my trouble"; the suffering in the night was not abated, and his soul (the physical and emotional state of being) refused comfort-nothing seemed to help (v. 2). Sleep was no relief, for none could be found. A state of listless inactivity and melancholy followed, and even talking about the problem seemed useless (v. 4). He was absolutely overwhelmed (v. 3).
When we find ourselves in a similar despondency, it is crucial that we acknowledge the fact that a real battle is going on within, and Satan is pressing the advantage. It is at this time, even though we feel least like doing so, that we must avail ourselves of God' s remedy. The Psalmist "sought the Lord" (v. 2) in his time of distress, and the remainder of this blessed Psalm gives God's answer to the saint's deep-seated affliction.
Lack of faith is evidenced in verses 5-9 of Psalm 77. Satan is the one who introduces the notion that God's promises are ineffectual-"doth his promise fail for evermore?" The mercy once so evident and precious now seems so incredibly distant (vv.7, 8). Even the memories of former blessings and times when fellowship with the Lord was especially sweet now only serve to intensify the feelings of despair. What is needed the most-the sense of God's presence and power-seems completely absent from the believer's life (vv. 5, 6).
This is where many saints begin to look elsewhere for relief, instead of patiently waiting on God to work in His time and in His way. The troubled believer may even be tempted to look to an encounter group, psychotherapy, mood-altering drugs, or "Christian" psychology instead of giving himself to a "diligent search" of the Lord's will (v. 6). This latter exercise- looking to the Lord-resulted in the Psalmist's sorrow being turned into rejoicing. Sadly, many Christians simply do not believe that God is able to do for them what He has promised He will do.
What the Lord desires of the distraught saint today who finds himself in such a condition is exactly what the Psalmist found to be true many years ago. When he came to the place where he acknowledged before God that he was incapable of bringing about his own recovery, and that God was the only One who could bring him up from the depth of despair, then help was on the way. He needed a change of mind, a genuine repentance, whereby he stopped blaming God and began once again to believe that what God had promised, He would perform.
"The God That Doest Wonders"
The Psalmist shifts his attention away from self and to his Saviour in the next portion of this psalm, and finds his Heavenly Father to be a miracle-working God after all. But first there must be the recognition of personal responsibility. "This is my infirmity" (v. 10). Here we have his confession of personal responsibility for his troubles. In reality, the cause of his distress did not come from insurmountable circumstances from without, but rather from an unspiritual and faithless condition of his heart within.
The Psalmist acknowledged his current distress as being of his own choosing, for he had chosen to succumb to those pressures which brought him into his deep depression, rather than choosing to trust God and wait upon Him for sustaining grace.
Repentance has been wrought from the heart. The Psalmist's mind is now focused on the faithfulness of the Almighty, and marvelous things happen when that is done.
The truth that brought him out of his state of depression was the realization that the God he served was in fact a God of miracles! He contemplated the way God had faithfully delivered His servants in times past- "I will remember the works of the Lord" (v. 11 ).
How often when we are at "rock bottom" do we think in our hearts, or at times even verbalize: "There's no way out; I might as well give up and quit; nothing seems to help, not even prayer"? But when the Psalmist thought upon the wonderful works of God and how He had proven Himself faithful to His own down through the ages, all of that changed (vv. 11-14).
In our time of greatest need we can say along with the Psalmist, "God will do for me what He has always done for His children; my God is a God 'that doest wonders' !"
How does the Psalmist's experience instruct us in the right thing to do when we have to admit that we are by no stretch of the imagination walking in the way of spiritual victory and blessing? The remaining verses of Psalm 77 reveal how the Psalmist found relief from his despondency by resting on the promises of his faithful Shepherd. He prayed to the Lord, "...surely I will remember thy wonders of old" (v. 11). He recounted the ways in which God delivered His people Israel from their suffering in bondage (vv. 13-19), and also thought of the record of His faithfulness in caring for the Israelites as they marched through harsh surroundings toward the Promised Land. By the "...hand of Moses and Aaron" (v. 20) the Lord tended His little flock as a compassionate, caring Shepherd. The Psalmist believed that what the Lord had done for Israel, He would also do for himself. This spiritual principle must be implanted in our own hearts and understanding before we can hope to experience God's deliverance as we shall see.
"I Will Remember the Words of the Lord"
The despondent Psalmist finally came to the point where God wanted him to be-in need of help, and recognizing that the help he so desperately needed was to come exclusively from the Lord.
We must confess to the Lord that we, too, are in dire need of spiritual restoration because of our own devices. If we continue to blame others, our circumstances or perhaps even God for our unhappiness, then we are effectively cutting ourselves off from the Bible's remedy.
We must also dig into the Word to find out what God desires to do for us if we will only allow Him. That is exactly what this text illustrates. The Psalmist's reflection on how God faithfully provided for all the needs and cares of His people (vv. 15-20) was instrumental in bringing him to the place where he was willing, by faith, to praise God for His promised faithfulness. Before, he sincerely doubted God's concern.
Undoubtedly, some will say that this approach is just too easy, that it is merely a simplistic solution to a more complex problem. Some reason that what the Bible has to say about God's care for His people and how He has proven time and again to be a faithful Shepherd cannot meet every emotional crisis in the believer's life today. Is that right? Absolutely not! That kind of reasoning is an expression of the lack of faith that brought about the spiritual doldrums in the first place.
The Psalmist acknowledged that God always keeps His Word-the accounts of the trials and victories of the saints of all ages are recorded in the Holy Scriptures for just this purpose. We, as well, should consider Biblical examples of how God proved Himself faithful in behalf of His own, even when they were going through deep valleys and treacherous trials. Such an exercise will deliver us in like manner. God will deal with us as He did with the saints of old; we can count on it!
"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"
One example of the Lord' s provision for the wearied saint is found in Genesis 28. Jacob found his God to be faithful. After the birthright was conferred upon him to the dismay of his elder brother Esau, Jacob fled. Probably the first time away from home, lonely, fearful, and no doubt physically exhausted after the first long day of his journey, he came to a barren place to rest where a stone for a pillow was his only comfort. Imagine the scene. With bleak, inhospitable surroundings, homesick for the comforts and affections of home, Jacob was fearful of Esau's wrath, and uncertain about the future. If there was ever a situation conducive to despondency and utter depression, this was it.
However, this seemingly God- forsaken place was in reality the very "...house of God...the gate of heaven" (vv. 10-17). God was in this place (v. 16)! Think of Jacob's joy that night as he communed with the Lord God of Heaven and was reminded of the promises of future blessing. God was with Jacob in his time of trial, even if he failed to realize it (v.16b). "I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of" (v.15b). God has given the believer today great and precious promises as well. He will be with us each step of the way, even if our path leads through a valley of despair, and He will present us to Himself faultless and complete at His appearing (Jude 24; 2 Timothy 1:12). The Lord Jesus Christ is in this place, no matter how barren and hopeless it may appear at the moment.
Another example was Joseph who knew what it meant to be betrayed and ill-treated (Genesis 45:1-15). Try to imagine the disheartened spirit which young Joseph must have experienced when he was sold into slavery by his own jealous and vindictive brothers (Genesis 37:1-28). Imagine the heartache of being taken from his elderly father Jacob who loved him so. Yes, when the tables were finally turned and Joseph had the opportunity to avenge his brother's contemptible conduct, certainly no one would have faulted him if he dealt with them in a less than loving way. But, instead of revenge fomenting in the heart, God' s miraculous love caused him to see from His vantage point: ". ..God did send me before you to preserve life" (Genesis 45:5-8); God did it for good. God' s will was done, even in the mistreatment of one of His own. Please read carefully the blessed text found in 1 Peter 3:13-17. Here, again, we are told that it may very well be the will of God when the righteous are unfairly or even maliciously treated.
Christian, are you suffering wrongfully due to the maligning or the misrepresentations of others? Well, God's Word says, "If ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye...." Are the actions of others causing you to be distressed? "Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled." Trust the Lord to work out His perfect will even in this kind of tribulation. God's sustaining grace will always prove to be sufficient in every trial.
Job experienced untold sorrow and suffering (Job 23:1-17). Only one who has gone through a time of intense physical hardship, or has lost those near and dear can even begin to grasp what Job must have been called upon to endure. Even Job' s supposed friends were no more than "miserable comforters" (16:2), and his own wife was no better when she came through with the less-than-encouraging advice to "curse God, and die" (2:9). Yet, even in all this, "did not Job sin with his lips" (2:10); he did not question the faithfulness of God even though He must have seemed so far away.
Job had faith, even when his world came crashing down around him. "I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee" (42:2). "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (23:10). God was able to deliver Job from his sore trial: he admitted that. Yet he also believed that if God chose rather to allow him to continue suffering in the flesh, he would come forth the finer. Yes, God is at work, even when the refiner's fire of adversity is white hot and unrelenting, "For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things [the difficult things we often do not understand] are with him" (23:14).
God knows what He is doing. Are we suffering affliction? Remember Job. Remember the promises (1 Peter 1:6-9; 5:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
1 Samuel 30:1-10 is another text which reveals the faithfulness of God in caring for the dispirited saint. Think of the consternation and anguish David must have experienced when he returned to Ziklag, only to find that his family, and the families and possessions of all of his men, had been taken captive by the heathen Amalekites (vv. 1-3).
Yes, David and all with him "lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep" (v. 4). Some of our readers may be able to identify with this, and, if so, can rejoice with David that when they experience such heartache, they are not without hope.
There were two different ways to approach this catastrophe. David' s men chose the first way and that was to lash out at what they believed to be a reason for the calamity in the first place-they blamed David and even spoke of stoning him (v. 6a). Imagine this added burden David was called upon to bear. But, instead, he chose another course of dealing with his distress by looking upward: "David encouraged himself in the Lord his God" (v. 6). Not only did David find relief from his overwhelming sense of loss and helplessness, but he also found the direction he needed, in response to his prayer, to take the necessary steps to resolve the tragedy (v. 8). Encouragement is available in the darkest hour, even when there is "no more power to weep."
Another example from the New Testament further underscores the blessed reality of the faithfulness of God in standing by those who stand firm in the Truth (2 Timothy 4:10-18). The faith of the Apostle Paul served as an example the Church was to emulate (Phil. 4:9), and in no other area is his steadfastness more evident than when his earthly friends and foes alike were his greatest hindrances and sources of discouragement.
Certainly he must have been terribly downhearted when Demas, whose more youthful talents and fellowship in bearing the burdens of the ministry must have been especially appreciated by the apostle, left him for worldly gain (v. 10); when only Luke was present to aid him (v. 11 ); when Alexander viciously assailed him (vv. 14, 15); and when it eventually came to the place where he had to say "no man stood with me, but all men forsook me.. ." (v. 16). Have we ever been disappointed by another? It breaks our heart, doesn't it? But was Paul reduced to utter despondency as a result of the failures and opposition of others? Absolutely not! His response was not complaint, not even laying blame at their feet (v. 16b). Rather, with the grace only the Holy Spirit could provide, he declared with heartfelt conviction: "Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me..." (v. 17). Christians, don't allow yourselves to become discouraged by others. The Lord is ever near!
"Kept by the Power of God"
The mighty power of God is so often disregarded by the beleaguered saint, yet that is exactly where his attention should be focused in time of difficulty. As a salient case in point, please read carefully Psalm 107:23-31 regarding the desperate mariners who were also "at their wits' end" due to the raging tempest. God had prepared this unusual storm Himself. Its intensity was beyond anything previously experienced; their souls "melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man" (vv. 25-27). Imagine these seamen struggling to maintain their footing on the deck of the ship tossed about on the towering waves- perilous distress! The desperate situation was out of their control.
Does this sound familiar? Often the believer encounters problems which, at least to him, are comparable to the howling tumult faced by these mariners. Just as the seamen had no control over the storm, so the troubled saint resigns himself to a seemingly helpless situation. Again, through believing prayer, God comes to the rescue. The mariners sought the face of the only One Who could help, "Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses" (v. 28). Now they were glad (v. 30), and for good reason. God calmed the storm and brought them safely to their desired haven. The purpose of the storm was to instruct the seamen in the need for not only acknowledging the "Sovereign of the Sea," but also to trust Him in the face of an impending catastrophe just as much as when they had a favorable wind in their sails.
Is there deliverance and assurance for our troubled souls? Absolutely! There will never be a situation so hopeless that it puts us out of the reach of the Lord's care and provision. When we are at our "wits' end" (v. 27), we are right where God wants us to be, ready to cry out to Him.
Finally, consider the supreme example of our Blessed Lord Himself (I Peter 2:17-21). He endured unjustified, untold suffering, yet instead of striking back or uttering groanings of despair, He "...committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (v. 23). Think of that! The Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory and the Creator of all things, looked to His Heavenly Father in His time of greatest humiliation in the flesh; He rested in the Father's faithfulness. And what is the application of this amazing text to you and me? We are told that we "should follow His steps" (v. 21).
Whatever hardship God brings into our lives to refine and strengthen our faith, we are to bear with Spirit- wrought meekness and dependence upon the Lord for strength to weather the storm.
God may provide miraculous deliverance-and He may not. Regardless of the eventual outcome, it is His purpose and His perfect will for us in the midst of the trial to draw upon His inexhaustible storehouse of grace and the inexplicable joy of communing with Christ, something that the world knows nothing of.
Many more examples in the Word speak of those who had every reason in the world for being discouraged, despondent, and deeply depressed. But repeated time and again in conjunction with each of these desperate situations is the miraculous deliverance God provides for those who look away from self and to the Saviour. Yes, God is a miracle-working God, and He will do for us what the Scriptures tell us He has done for others when they were at their wits' end. It takes a miracle for one to be delivered from inexpressible vexation of spirit, but we serve a God of miracles; let Him show Himself to be what He has promised.
This is how the Psalmist obtained victory-he acknowledged his need, and then dwelt on what God had done for saints facing similar trials in days gone by (Psalm 77: 10-20). This may sound just too simple. But keep in mind the blessed fact that faith is the key to obtaining the blessed, more abundant life in Christ. Faith is simply taking God at His Word, and then acting accordingly. How often it could be said of us, especially when it comes to victory over deep-seated unhappiness, that we "...have not, because [we] ask not" (James 4:2 cf. 1 John 5:14, 15).
There are God-given promises of certain blessing in the future and sustaining grace in the present for the saint who is called upon to endure affliction (I Peter 1:1-9; cf. Romans 8:18). Yes, there is "heaviness" of spirit (it does not have to be depression!) "for a season," but "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (vv. 6, 8) is still the portion of those who look to God with the eye of faith.
Fundamental Evangelistic Association
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