Let Me Remember My Song

This morning I was reading Psalm 77, and it occurred to me that this chapter is the counsel I am so often looking for… especially as my wrestling with God stretches into the quiet watches of the night.

In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.

[1] I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
[2] 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.
[3] When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

In Asaph's words I can taste the edge of the bitterness and anxiety that comes from feeling disconnected from God. I remember…The answer I have been praying for hasn't come. The opportunity I was counting on has slipped away. It's been weeks or months without healing. That relationship on which I pin my future is in jeopardy. The heavens are silent even as I beat on the gates with every quiet moment and every hour that ought to be sleep.

God is even a painful thought… Asaph can't meditate or concentrate, it's too much.

He's just tired.

Familiar to you too? Let's read on.

[4] You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
[5] I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
[6] I said,(1) “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”

I love how the psalmist, even as he feels so distant and unheard, acknowledges that even his sleeplessness is part of God's sovereign plan. "You hold my eyelids open."

Here in verse 5, the psalm takes the turn. Asaph considers history… years long ago, and his own song. I have been considering what this means. Is he speaking of a psalm he wrote, a prayer of worship and joy? Does "his song" mean his own story or testimony? Either way, he is considering and dwelling on God's love and faithfulness in history and his own experience.

Not only is he bringing it to mind, he is meditating on it. The transcendentalist eastern-style meditation currently in vogue is not what is spoken of here, but it does have one similarity: to put out of your mind that which distracts. I can almost hear Asaph take a deep slow breath as the fear and doubt that has brought tears and sleeplessness are diligently and carefully laid aside as he meditates on the days of old and his song in the night.

Then my spirit made a diligent search:

[7] “Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
[8] Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
[9] Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah

Now Asaph's heart is quiet… and he employs his mind and reasoning against the truths on which he has anchored his heart and emotions.. Has His steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?

The answer is no. This is part of our eternal hope and joy in an unchanging and perfect God. He has not changed, nor will he.

[10] Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”(2)

When I first read this, I thought that Asaph was about to employ a means of prayer that is often seen in the Old Testament, using this rediscovered truth about God in his prayers… something like Daniel asking God to stay true to his character. I was wrong.

[11] I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
[12] I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty 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 might among the peoples.
[15] You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

He is contending with his own fears! He is taking the quiet heart anchor and double edged sword of truth to do battle with his own anxiety… turning his thoughts to praise and worship.

It's not just a frenzy of emotional fervor, it is thoughtful. It is the same disciplined consideration of truth, a diligent search of scripture, now name-checking the mighty deeds of old and standing firm on the promises they represent.

What a challenge to me. I don't know that I have ever changed emotional gears like this to respond to stress. I ride the waves up and down, usually from mind-whirling fears to some praise and worship song that kicks me in the emotional gut and turns my thoughts to brokenness and worship. Not a bad strategy, but I love encountering what seems to be a slightly different path: calming my heart by meditating on scripture, then reasoning on that truth to put my fears to death… and ending in praise.

[16] When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
[17] The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
[18] The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
[19] Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.(3)

I've been at the beach for the past week. I am always convicted at how I mentally flatten the infinite horizon of the ocean into just the twenty feet that I can easily access, like the passable portion of a map in a video game. It robs of me of the wonder that has enthralled poets and prophets for millennia.

As I read this bit, I considered how water is a perfect metaphor for life. It's used in scripture so much… waves crash down, lack of water makes us pant, we can drown in it, it can conceal monsters in the deep, we need water to grow, the disciples think they've mastered it, it masters them, then Christ proves he is the Master.

Whether we are becalmed and can't move, or with Peter we are drowning under that which we ought to be walking upon, or the tall waves are threatening to overcome, this beautiful psalm is another reminder that our God is the creator and king of the oceans… and of the life of which they are a symbol. Amen.

[20] You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

We are led like a shepherd. He leads from the front. We just follow. That's a good word for my next sleepless night.

Photo by me. Scripture quotations from the ESV.

  • 2022-06-08 11:31:29 -0500
    Rename articles

  • 2020-06-18 14:26:02 -0500
    Move everything to CST

    Don't know why I didn't do that before. It caused _no_ end of

  • 2019-08-27 16:26:47 -0500
    Make some adjustments for clarity

    Thanks dad!

  • 2019-08-26 07:37:59 -0500
    Fix tags (case sensitive still, bah)

  • 2019-08-26 07:35:37 -0500
    New post: Let me remember my song