When You’re In Distress & Your Spirit Grows Faint…
What does the LORD teach His people to do when we’re in distress?
How do we trust that the LORD is with us, even in THIS place?
Let’s turn to Psalm 77 to find out…please click HERE.
Cry out to God (verse 1)
I’ve often thought I’ve cried out to God, but I haven’t.
I’ve complained to Him as I multi-task throughout the day,
or I’ve simply distracted myself with other activities,
but I haven’t usually cried out to Him, on my knees,
with nothing else going on, all my attention focused.
Or if I have prayed, it’s been quick/short/microwave.
The psalmist isn’t doing that here.
We wait in line for customer service—on the phone or in person—
if our situation is important enough.
I’ve sat on the phone for hours to get a refund—
set the phone on speaker and gotten other things done,
to the point where I’m humming their customer service music
later in the day! But I waited because my issue was serious enough.
This is what the psalmist is doing—crying out to God,
not in the self-checkout speedy lane, but in the long line,
taking time & investing energy/focus in crying out to God.
This is learned over time, but it is necessary for us to learn.
Our brothers & sisters in the past have learned it,
and are learning it now, so we are not alone…
“Groanings which cannot be uttered
are often prayers which cannot be refused.” (Charles Spurgeon).
Sometimes my best prayers to the LORD are three words spoken
in an hour of waiting on my knees at His feet: “Thank You…help…”
Have you beaten around the bush with God,
or have you gone to Him, the burning bush, & cried out?
Seek the Lord (verse 2)
The person of God. Seek Him. Talk to the LORD as if He’s there with you. Stop talking and listen as you pray. What I mean is, act like He is there.
Give Him a chance to speak. Open His Word, read a verse or two,
and then pause. Talk to Him about that verse.
Listen to what He is saying through the Bible.
I’m not saying He is going to audibly talk to you.
I’m simply saying that, especially in times of distress
when our spirit is faint, we need to learn to seek the LORD as a person,
not just as an idea or concept or force (like electricity).
This takes practice, but it is worth it.
Talking at God is different than talking with Him.
We talk at people when we order a meal at a fast-food restaurant,
& too often we consider this “praying” in our lives with the LORD.
Consider how you say it: do you pray to God…or pray with Him?
All night long (verses 2—4)
Sometimes you just need to sleep, a good night of rest;
sometimes we are hangry, and our anxiety simply needs a meal/snack.
But sometimes we don’t; sometimes we need to be with the LORD
throughout the night in ways that we aren’t with Him/conscious of Him
during the busyness of the day.
When our spirits grow faint, when we are in soul-distress,
nothing will satisfy but Him, not even Snickers.
Not every physical pain needs a trip to the ER, but SOME pain does.
Deep soul-distress & a fainting spirit requires nothing less than
prolonged prayer to the LORD, praise for Him,
& heart-spilling honesty with Him. All. Night. Long.
Refuse to be comforted by sin (verse 2)
Sin seems to bring you one step forward (really sideways)
& puts you five steps backward. We’re susceptible to sin when we suffer. With prayer & support of other Christians, refuse to be comforted by sin.
Sometimes we also need to refuse to comforted by
earthly things that we use to take our minds off suffering/problems—reading a book, watching a movie, bouncing around the internet.
On the cross, he Lord Jesus refused the wine mixed with myrrh;
He didn’t want a pain-reliever to numb the pain of the crucifixion.
We must be careful of the ways that sin disguises itself as a pain-reliever.
It does that, in a way, for a short time. It masks our hurt for a while.
But it only treats the symptoms, not the disease.
And it creates more pain in the long-run.
The bottom of a bottle, for example, has no bottom—
it always make things worse, will never bottom-out.
Remember past times of joy in the LORD (verses 5 & 6).
You know what I did when the Chicago Cubs lost their playoff game?
I went back and watched highlights from 2016
when they won the World Series. No kidding.
Helped me not be as frustrated.
We need to learn to do this in our lives as Christians…
This isn’t looking back to the good ‘ol days in order to go back to them;
that leads to just as much discontentment and joylessness in the present
as does focusing on our trial (e.g. Uncle Rico in Napolean Dynamite—
“Coach shoulda put me in! I could throw it over them mountains!”).
No, the purpose is not to get the old days back
but to remember that the same LORD
Who was with us then is with us now;
He is just as compassionate, just as mighty, just as present.
We are not to seek the old days, but rather the Ancient of Days.
Ask the right questions (verses 6—9)
Not “Why isn’t God fixing this? or When will this end?”
Those are honest, but in light of eternity they’re small questions.
Ask big questions, eternal and foundational questions:
- Does this situation really nullify/cancel/unravel/shake
my Father’s promises?
- Does this circumstance mean that the LORD isn’t good,
that I can’t trust Him?
- Does this trial mean that His love doesn’t endure forever?
- Does this suffering prove that the LORD has abandoned me
even though He promises He won’t?
Those are the big questions—sometimes just asking them out loud,
& going to the promises in the Bible, answers them for us.
As we learn to see the Bible’s Truth & answers for the big questions,
the smaller questions get eclipsed and fade to the background.
Remember & reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past (verses 10—20)
Praise the LORD right now (verses 13—14)
Sing a favorite hymn or worship song to the LORD.
Not because you feel like doing it, but because He deserves it,
even when you are in distress, even when your spirit is faint.
Do it because He tells us to do it, in all situations,
no matter what is happening in us & around us.
If you are in Christ by faith & grace alone, the LORD leads you
even when you can’t see His footsteps (verse 19)
I’ve often been blessed by the “Footprints” poem.
“When you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” Powerful.
But Psalm 77 takes it to a whole other level of power:
when we don’t see any footprints, it was then that He carried us.
“Blessed are those who have not seen, and still believe.”
“Surely God is in this place, and I didn’t know it!” (Genesis 28:16-17).
God is in…THIS place, your place right now, deep distress,
your spirit is faint, you can’t sleep, you can’t even seem to talk.
How will you look at this situation?
God is nowhere? Or
God is now here.
Just a simple push of the space bar between w & h
makes a huge theological & spiritual change.
The LORD leads you like a shepherd, not a taskmaster (verse 20)
Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, there’s nothing that I want.
[How does He lead us?]
He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.”
Sometimes He leads us beside waters that aren’t quiet now
but will be once He calms them.
Sometimes He leads us into a barren wildernesses that has no grass now, but will once He grows it.
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.”
Paths that will grow righteousness in us, for as we mature we glorify Him.
Paths that will teach us to focus on His righteousness,
not on the worldly stuff being sold along the path.
John 13:7: “Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing,
but later you will understand.”
Oh how that applies to us in our suffering.
We don’t often understand in the moment,
but He promises to be at work, to bring good out of our trials,
to work all things for good…
May He strengthen us thru the Bible, thru His Holy Spirit, & thru each other,
to trust Him and take Him at His Word…
Surely God is in this place…even this place…even here…
and I did not realize it…