The Psalm this week:
1 I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may 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 I think of God, and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints.
4 You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
Sleeplessness has created a number of successful industries. A whole variety of solutions are available for those who suffer from insomnia—from the latest innovation in mattresses (so what is your “sleep number”?) to the newest prescription medication (and will you get addicted to it?), from herbal teas to mind-numbing late-night television. Perhaps you’ve tried some of these remedies.
The problem is, when you are troubled by life, nothing works very well. Except being honest with God.
The next time you find yourself in the midst of a sleepless night, writhing in bed while your mind churns through all the fears and frustrations that wear you out, spend some time meditating with the psalmist—who found himself, just like you, deeply troubled and searching for God’s relief.
The more you yearn for insight, clarity, and answers, the more things seem senseless and crazy. You only have energy enough to sigh deeply, but without getting any fresh oxygen. Worry piles on top of worry. Crisis tries to outdo crisis. Questions gather like frothy slime in a corner of a stagnant pond.You yearn for peace, for rest, for comfort. And your mind goes to work.
5 I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago.
6 I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit:
It didn’t use to be this way, you tell yourself. You used to be strong and alive and confident in God. You used to have a youthful optimism about life that enabled you to conquer any setback, presumably in the strength of God. Your past mocks your present. You remember and ponder and search for how it used to be, and beg God to bring back that fresh naivete. It was so much easier then, wasn’t it? And now it seems God has left you alone.
7 “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
8 Has his steadfast love ceased forever? Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” . . .
You know the answers to those questions. It may seem that God has cut off love, broken promises, forgotten grace, and thrown out compassion. But that can’t be. It’s impossible. That is not the kind of God you know.
It’s possible that God is in this. Maybe God is doing something you are having trouble seeing for the tears in your eyes.
Instead of doubting God, ask yourself questions like these: Is God using this time to take me to the next step of faith, to build some maturity in my life? Does God want me to experience this so I can help others through such dark times? Does God want me to understand both the dark and the light, so I can appreciate the light all the more?
Despite the evidence of your circumstances, that sounds much more like the God you know.
11 I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds.
Instead of mulling over all the problems and pains and fears we’re tangled up in, instead of thinking back on how great things used to be, let us remember who God is. When we’re troubled, let us focus on God’s ways, God’s wonders, God’s provisions for us over the years. Let us turn our thoughts inside out, downside up, and consider God as God is.
That will put things back into perspective before the dawn comes.
[Adapted from Connected: You and God in the Psalms (Morehouse Publishing, 2009)].