Much more than remembering the good ol’ days when life seemed better, Asaph in Psalm 77 is remembering the Lord and his great works and loving ways. These days we call it self-talk, or maybe “preaching to yourself,” when we remind ourselves of the holiness and goodness and faithfulness of God. And it is a good thing to do, and often.
Long before we get to the end of Psalm 77, we know it will turn out well.
How? In the opening verse, Asaph says: “I cried out to God with my voice…and He gave ear to me” (v. 1). He was in trouble, but he wants to immediately reassure us: God heard him!
For it cannot end badly when we begin with prayer. When we’re distressed or worried about something, we shouldn’t rationalize it away, or laugh it away, or drink it away, or find some other escape. No, we should pray. Pray at once. Pray, for our God in Christ has an open ear. He is sufficient to meet our concerns, and always willing to help. It was through giving voice to his despair to God that Asaph gained peace.
But first consider the trials of this lowly soul, recorded in verse 2:
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord.
Other Psalms mention a range of problems and concerns: the pursuit of enemies, a body wracked by illness, the heart oppressed by guilt. But not here. This child of God is overwhelmed, depressed and embittered, for some unnamed reason.
And saying so little of the cause opens up Psalm 77 to even more people. For everyone has some measure of trouble. We can mention the loneliness that God’s children experience, or the misery of chronic pain, or a flood of family disappointments, and conflict with other people, and anxiety over finances, and regret over the past. You can surely add your own.
In the day of trouble, we all know what to do. Asaph tells us, “My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing” (v. 2). This is the posture for prayer: reaching out for the LORD. Asaph is going to the right place. But notice a couple things about this prayer, things which reveal how deeply distressed he is.
First, he’s praying “in the night,” when he should be sleeping. Trouble can be so bad that it won’t even let a person rest. Instead of being a time of sweet relief and comfort, night-time can see us oppressed by our thoughts and unable to overcome our anxieties. In nervous fear, we toss and turn.
On the one hand, tomorrow can’t come soon enough because then we’ll actually be able to do something. But we also know that when tomorrow comes, the difficult situation will only confront us again. So the psalmist can’t sleep, nor even talk coherently: “You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (v. 4).
He’s praying, but it’s really difficult.