By Joni Shankles
Life can be stressful, the mom life especially.
When stresses pile up, or when a crisis hits, we can be left disoriented, wondering where God is in the midst of our trouble.
In times like this, I turn to the Psalms.
I love the honesty of the Psalms. The Psalms capture the whole range of human emotions, from despair to delight, and help us orient our hearts toward God in the middle of life on this trouble-filled planet.
Psalm 77 was written in a time of crisis. Asaph, the psalmist, writes about a time when he was so troubled that he couldn’t even speak. Asaph struggled with difficult questions during sleepless nights.
- Will God reject me?
- Will God show His favor again?
- Has God’s faithful love stopped?
- Have God’s promises ended?
- Has God forgotten me?
- Is God angry with me?
It helps to see these questions recorded in the Psalms, to know that these questions are not unusual. In times of crisis, the enemy tries to steal our confidence in God’s goodness by suggesting that the answer to these questions is “Yes, God has forgotten you.”
What does Asaph do with his questions? How does he find confidence in his day of trouble?
He does three things:
1. He cries out to God in prayer.
2. He seeks the Lord.
3. He practices remembering.
The psalmist’s first two strategies are things you might expect. Prayer and looking to God for answers are often first responses to crisis.
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
I sought the Lord in my day of trouble… (Psalm 77:1-2)
But why would Asaph practice remembering?
Because stress makes it easy to forget the answers to important questions.
Stress interrupts the retrieval of information stored in memory. Test anxiety is a classic example of this. The information is there in the brain, but under stressful conditions, the information cannot be accessed when it is needed.
In a similar way, the stress we experience day to day, especially during times of crisis, can affect our memory, making it difficult to remember God’s goodness.
In times of trouble, we desperately need to remember who God is and what He has done in order to give us hope. We need a process that helps us overcome our forgetfulness and retrieve the truth about God.
We need the truth written down.
Our memories aren’t always reliable. God knows this. So He wrote down everything we need. In the Bible, we have the truth of who God is and what He has done written down and available to us at all times. The Bible helps us remember God’s character and His actions on our behalf.
For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.
I brought you from the ends of the earth
and called you from its farthest corners.
I said to you: You are my servant;
I have chosen you; I haven’t rejected you.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.
He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.
In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Deliberately bringing to mind what God has done in the past can help us deal with the troubles of the present.
Asaph did this. He purposefully meditated on God’s wonders and miraculous actions in redeeming His people. In Psalm 77, he used the words remember or meditate six different times, indicating a need to keep practicing this discipline of remembering. Asaph reminded himself how God miraculously rescued His people from slavery by parting the Red Sea. God’s faithfulness to His people in the past gave Asaph confidence in the midst of his present difficulty.
Asaph wrote psalms as a way of remembering God’s goodness for himself and for others. In them, Asaph recorded what he knew to be true about God. And in difficult times, he could read these written psalms again and again to remind him who God is.
We can read them and remember too.
I consider days of old,
years long past.
At night I remember my music;
I meditate in my heart, and my spirit ponders.
I will remember the LORD’s works;
Yes, I will remember your ancient wonders.
I will reflect on all you have done
And meditate on your actions.
God, your way is holy.
What god is great like God?
You are the God who works wonders;
You revealed your strength among the peoples.
With power you redeemed your people…
Like Asaph, we need to practice remembering God’s promises and actions on behalf of His people. We can be confident that the God who spoke the world into existence, who parted the sea to rescue His people, who redeemed our sins on the cross and raised Jesus from the dead, who has given us everything we need for life and godliness through His Son, and who has promised to never leave us or forsake us, this same God will be with us and deliver us from our present troubles.
How can we practice remembering?
- We can read God’s Word, reminding ourselves that what God did then, He can do today. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
- We can write God’s Word on index cards or sticky notes, carrying God’s truth with us to prompt our memory when we need it most.
- We can listen to God’s Word, with playlists of songs that set truth to music or with apps that read God’s Word aloud.
- We can meditate on God’s Word, bringing His truth consciously to mind throughout the day. We can memorize the verses we need to counter the lies of the enemy.
- We can journal, writing down what God does for us specifically so that we can see evidence of His love when we need reminding again.
- We can tell others what God has done for us, sharing our experience of God’s faithfulness to encourage others who are going through the same trials.
So, when stress levels rise or a crisis hits, we can do what Asaph did.
We can cry out to God. We can even use the words of the Psalms to help form our prayers.
We can seek the Lord in our day of trouble. We can choose to orient our hearts toward God, even in the midst of difficulty.
And we can practice remembering the character of God, the wonders that God has done, and the promises He has given us while we wait for His deliverance.