God’s Mighty Deeds Recalled
To the leader: according to Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A Psalm.
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, that he may hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
I think of God, and I moan;
I meditate, and my spirit faints.Selah
You keep my eyelids from closing;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
and remember the years of long ago.
I commune[a] with my heart in the night;
I meditate and search my spirit:[b]
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love ceased forever?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”Selah
And I say, “It is my grief
that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work,
and muse on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have displayed your might among the peoples.
With your strong arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.Selah
When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
the very deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
the skies thundered;
your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lit up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
your path, through the mighty waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
~ Psalm 77 (NRSV)
Today’s reading came from the Book of Psalms, and the Book of Psalms is full of emotions. Sometimes in the Psalms, we hear of overflowing joy and praise. Sometimes, we hear anger and frustration. Sometimes, we hear concern and worry and fear. But in today’s reading, we hear about sadness. The truth is, it’s because of all the emotions described in the Psalms that people find such comfort in them. It’s just like hearing a song on the radio that speaks to how you are feeling.
When we read the Psalms, whether we are happy and celebrating, or frustrated and filled with worry and struggle, or simply feeling sad and alone, the Psalms remind us that someone else has felt the same way—that we are not alone in our joy or anger or sadness—and there is always something comforting in knowing that you are not alone in the world, isn’t there?
Today’s Psalm is referred to as a Psalm of “lament” because the psalmist is experiencing deep sadness. I wonder, have you ever felt sad? Of course, you have; we all have. Whether we have fallen off of our bicycle and skinned our knee, or lost an important baseball game. Whether we were not treated nicely by a friend or family member or a colleague, or we feel out of control in our lives. Whether we grieve the loss of something or someone that we loved, or we feel lost and alone in the world. We all feel sad sometimes, and when we feel sad, it can make us feel tired or frustrated or even angry or hopeless or just plain down. Sometimes we cry, or we just feel empty or broken, and we long for a time when we can feel whole again.
Our scripture reading today was written by someone feeling really sad. The author of the Psalm felt down and alone, and he wrote about what he was feeling as a way to work through it. Now sometimes that’s a good idea—to write or to journal about what you’re feeling—because it helps you to think through and to identify what is causing your emotions. Sometimes, it is just a good way to let them out, to acknowledge them so that you might begin to start letting them go.
One of the gifts that our faith gives us is a sense of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. Many times when we are feeling sad or angry or frustrated, we have a hard time seeing what is coming next and we lose sight of the joy that is all around us. The truth is, having hope is really helpful when you are feeling down. The writer of our Psalm today found hope when he started to remember. On our bulletin cover today, you can see a phrase from Psalm 77 that says: “I will remember, you are the God who works wonders.”
So what do you think the psalmist might have been thinking about when he directed his thoughts to the God who works wonders? Maybe he thought of the amazing act of Creation or the beauty of the world around him? Perhaps he thought about the rains that fall on the fields or the sun that shines in the sky, or maybe the writer thought back to hard times in his own life when he felt sad in the past, but God brought him through it.
Actually, if we look back to verses 15 to 17, the writer remembers how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea before them. The Psalm ends remembering that God led God’s people for forty years through the wilderness by the hand of Moses and Aaron. I’m sure there was sadness and frustration and anger and confusion, but they continued to have faith in God and finally arrived in the Promised Land.
Think about this for a minute: we have all been sad at one time or another in our lives, so sad that we cried, and we weren’t sure that we would make it through the day. But guess what? We are all still here! Because somewhere deep inside we found hope. We knew that we needed to just keep breathing and just keep going and just keep trying. The truth is, God is always with us and God brings us through times of trouble, even when we can’t feel God’s presence or see the light at the end of the tunnel.
My favorite part of Psalm 77 is verse 19. “Your way was through the sea, your path through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen.” This is actually where the Footprints prayer came from. So many times when we are facing sadness and difficulty, we think God is far away because we can’t feel God’s presence with us. The truth is, it is our awareness of God that is missing, God didn’t go anywhere; God is always there. So, friends, I invite you to close your eyes if you are comfortable and to just listen to these words of the poem titles “Footprints.
One night I dreamed a dream. As I was walking along the beach with God, across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to God. After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints. This really troubled me, so I asked God about it. “God, you said once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.” God whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. During your trials and testings, when you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.”
Friends, the truth is there is always something good to be found in every situation. Sometimes we can’t see it until we look back at it. When we feel lost and alone, we are often blinded by our sadness. But be assured that there is always something good there, whether it be someone who steps in to help or a stranger with an unexpected kind word or even just a smile. And through it all, know that God is always there too, holding you safely in the palm of His hand.
So, brothers and sister in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, know that it is okay to be sad or angry or confused or stressed or frustrated. After all, you are human. But know that in your sadness and anger and confusion and stress and frustration, that God is always there. Be assured that you are never alone, that others have felt and are feeling the same way, and though you may only see darkness, look for the light. Because it is always there, shining in and through the most unexpected people and places.
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!