Monday, 14 January 2019

When God seems absent!

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

Psalm 77

77:1 I will cry out to God and call for help!
I will cry out to God and he will pay attention to me.
77:2 In my time of trouble I sought the Lord.
I kept my hand raised in prayer throughout the night.
I  refused to be comforted.
77:3 I said, “I will remember God while I groan;
I will think about him while my strength leaves me.”  (Selah)
77:4 You held my eyelids open;
I was troubled and could not speak.
77:5 I thought about the days of old,
about ancient times.
77:6 I said, “During the night I will remember the song I once sang;
I will think very carefully.”
I tried to make sense of what was happening.
77:7 I asked,  “Will the Lord reject me forever?
Will he never again show me his favour?
77:8 Has his loyal love disappeared forever?
Has his promise failed forever?
77:9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has his anger stifled his compassion?”
77:10 Then I said, “I am sickened by the thought
that the sovereign One might become inactive.
77:11 I will remember the works of the Lord.
Yes, I will remember the amazing things you did long ago!
77:12 I will think about all you have done;
I will reflect upon your deeds!”
77:13 O God, your deeds are extraordinary!
What god can compare to our great God?
77:14 You are the God who does amazing things;
you have revealed your strength among the nations.
77:15 You delivered your people by your strength –
the children of Jacob and Joseph. (Selah)
77:16 The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and trembled.
Yes, the depths of the sea shook with fear.
77:17 The clouds poured down rain;  
the skies thundered. 
Yes, your arrows flashed about.
77:18 Your thunderous voice was heard in the wind;
the lightning bolts lit up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
77:19 You walked through the sea;
you passed through the surging waters,
but left no footprints.
77:20 You led your people like a flock of sheep,
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
(NET Bible)


There are times in our walk with God when we do not sense His presence. It is as though God withdraws Himself so that we will seek Him more earnestly. At times such as these it is important to know how to approach God and not to lose faith. Faith is easy when we sense God’s presence but in times of “darkness” the challenge is not to despair or give up but to follow the example of the psalmist.

Where is the Lord? (77:1,2)

The psalmist cries out to God in his distress. He is greatly troubled and seeks God unceasingly. God is absent. Even though the psalmist searches for God, he doesn’t sense God’s presence or comfort.

Remembering (77:3-6)

The psalmist begins to remember his God but is not encouraged. Spiritually, emotionally and physically he is struggling to find God even as he thinks about his God. 77:3,4
The writer reflects on better times with God when he could sing songs in the night in continuous worship to his Lord. 77:5,6

Interpreting circumstances (77:7-9)

As the writer considers the circumstances and God’s apparent absence, he begins to question his relationship with God and what he thought he knew about God. Questions that are a response to what the psalmist is experiencing, feed doubt into his spirit concerning God’s acceptance, grace, unfailing love, promises, mercy and compassion. In this section the writer speaks of God in the third person. Previously he addressed God in the second person a couple of times but mostly in the third person but now he only speaks of God as though he were not present.

Faith strategy (77:10-12)

The writer now questions his own interpretation of his circumstances and his thinking. The NET Bible translates this difficult verse like this, “Then I said, ‘I am sickened by the thought that the sovereign One  might become inactive’” (77:10). He begins to challenge his own thought process and makes a definite decision to change his way of thinking by thinking not of God’s apparent absence but about what God has done in the past! The writer chooses to remember the wonderful things God has done in his life and begins to meditate and reflect on God’s power and goodness (77:11,12).

Faith restored (77:13-20)

The psalmist turns his attention away from himself and fixes his eyes on the Lord. He addresses God personally in second person. He declares who God is – that God is holy, great, powerful, the worker of miracles, and his redeemer. The writer meditates on the testimonies of God and reflects on how God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt through the red sea (77:16-20). His faith is restored as he reflects on God’s work and on the assurance that if God did it once, He will surely do it again!


In times of darkness, when God seems absent, we can despair and lose faith or we can simply hope for the "gift of meeting" (Christopher Chapman) or reflect on the testimonies of God's goodness and faithfulness. When our circumstances begin to challenge our understanding of who God has revealed Himself to be, we must choose to trust God and remember when He was present and we enjoyed the gift of sensing His presence or the "gift of meeting". If you are going through a difficult time and it seems like God is not there, I want to encourage you to think about God's goodness in your life that you have experienced in the past. Meditate on testimonies of God's faithfulness and power. Turn your heart away from yourself and towards God in worship. Declare how wonderful God is and how good He is. Let the Holy Spirit ignite your spirit as you speak to God and declare your love for Him. May your faith be restored as you meet with your God. He loves you and will never forsake you.  

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