Do good & godly people ever become discouraged, depressed -- or filled with despair?

Have you? -- Have you ever been filled with despair?

Have you ever been so troubled that you endured sleepless, restless nights?

Have you had times when you were so low & troubled -- that no one could comfort you?

Have you ever been so down & discouraged that you felt like giving up -- feeling your life was a total failure.

Have you ever prayed & felt like the Lord had stopped listening?

More than likely -- many of us could shake our heads "yes" to these questions.

 

It may surprise you to learn that you are not alone in such feelings.

In fact these deep, dark trials have been experienced by many of God's choice servants!

 

Charles H. Spurgeon -- is known as one of the godliest Bible expositors of all time!

He was a faithful pastor & a prince of preachers in London, England, 200 years ago -- having begun preaching as a young teenager.

He was a praying man who sought the Lord continually.

And yet he also faced deep, awful depression -- or melancholy -- as a result of his ongoing battle with gout that finally killed him at age 58.

 

John Fletcher is another example of a servant of God who suffered with deep depression.

He ministered under none other than John Wesley -- who called Fletcher the most godly man on the face of the earth.

The presence of Christ was so powerful in Fletcher's life that often his friends fell silent when Fletcher walked into the room.

This godly man just oozed -- & leaked -- the very Spirit of Christ.

Yet John Fletcher also experienced awful depression.

A horrible melancholy would come upon him out of nowhere -- afflicting him for days on end -- for which there was no rational explanation.

 

Let me give you still another example.

The night was dark & foggy -- as a man walked from his house to the cobble-stone street -- his step determined & relentless -- but his face -- had anyone been able to see it in the dark -- was tear-stained & weary.

As he reached the street -- he looked both ways -- seeking for the lantern of a horse-drawn, London cab.

The man muttered: -- "There's nothing! -- Am I too late? -- But no! -- I must end all tonight! -- And the river it must be!"

Then -- in the distance -- he detected a hazy light -- slowly enlarging.

Almost whispering -- the man said bitterly: -- "God, you provided me no comfort -- but here you provide the cab to take me to my death!"

 

"Where to?" -- asked the cabbie -- when he stopped.

"London Bridge" -- the man replied -- abruptly.

"A cold night it is, sir; -- what sort of business have you at the Bridge at this hour?" -- But the man said nothing!

 

The cabbie ended his attempt at conversation -- & set off toward that well-known destination -- London Bridge.

But the fog became thicker & thicker -- so that the cabbie could not see even his horse's nose.

What should have been a 20 minute ride lasted an hour -- & still there was no sign of the river -- or the 600 year-old bridge.

The cabbie stared into the fog -- desperately looking for some familiar sign. -- Suddenly -- suddenly the fog lifted!

The passenger -- startled from his gloomy stare -- looked to his right & saw -- to his amazement -- his own home.

The cab -- lost in the fog -- had circled back to the very place he began the journey.

The passenger cried out: -- "My God! -- You have answered me!"

 

Later that night -- by his own fireplace -- this man -- William Cowper -- one of Englands greatest 18th century poets -- meditated on Psalm 77 -- which was read to you earlier.

That same night -- two centuries ago -- William Cowper penned this great poem: -- God moves in mysterious ways

His wonders to perform;

He plants his footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

 

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take!

The clouds ye so much dread;

Are big with mercy, and shall break

In blessings on your head.

 

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense.

But trust him for his grace;

Behind a frowning providence,

He hides a smiling face.

Psalm 77. -- If you feel discouragement in your life -- it may help you to know that this Psalmist understood just how you feel -- & he wrote about it.

Psalm 77 is a lament -- Like so many of its kind it begins in the shadow of sorrow & despair -- & rises to the sunshine of song!

Psalm 77 is a Psalm that helps all of us regain perspective -- in times of depression -- by offering us some lessons that reestablish our spiritual & mental equilibrium.

 

Discouragement & depression eventually affects us all -- no matter what may be our state of grace.

Elijah -- God's iron man of the Old Testament -- became so discouraged that he sat under a juniper tree -- & prayed to die.

The Apostle Paul had so many difficult experiences in Asia that he wrote -- according to 2 Corinthians 1:8 -- "we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life."

Even Jesus Himself had His Gethsemane experience -- & according to Mark 8:12 -- often "sighed deeply in His spirit."

 

The man we meet in Psalm 77 -- bore all the marks that would today be diagnosed as clinical depression.

He was looking at life through dark colored glasses.

He felt forgotten & forsaken by God Himself.

He couldn't sleep! -- He couldn't articulate his thoughts because of emotional exhaustion. -- He was tired all the time.

He lived in the past -- longing for a day that had long since passed by.

He remembered when he was happy & had a song in his heart; -- but no more; -- & he couldn't seem to get back there no matter how hard he tried.

The Psalmist is saying: "God, Im hurting down here! -- I'm confused! -- I'm not sure that I'm doing life right! -- How about some help, God?"

 

That's what I like about the Bible! -- It speaks to everyone's need!

The Bible is a very honest book! -- This is the wonderful thing about the Word of God. -- It never glosses over human problems.

It does not hide from us the troubles that are part of our lives.

The Scriptures plunge right into the depths -- right into the heart of human experiences.

This Psalm is telling us of a man who is in deep trouble.

Have you been in that situation? -- Are you in that situation now?

Some of you may be saying: -- "That is my experience, exactly! -- That's just what I have been going through."

Then -- my friend -- this Psalm is just for you!!

 

As we move through this Psalm -- may we look closely & observe how the Psalmist moves from Despair to Peace!

From Despair to Peace -- that is the story of Psalm 77.

 

 

1. The Sorrow! -- (77:1-2)

Listen to the cry of his heart & soul in verses 1-2: --

"I cried out to God for help; -- I cried out to God to hear me.

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;

at night I stretched out untiring hands

and my soul refused to be comforted." (NIV).

 

That sounds to me like a cry of sorrow & despair!

We don't know the source of his difficulty -- he just calls it "the day of my trouble" (KJV) -- or "when I was in distress" (NIV).

But he is desperately seeking the Lord in the midst of his trials.

 

We are never told in this psalm what the trouble is.

Perhaps it was a personal disappointment of some kind -- as many of us experience from time to time when we have our hearts set on something -- but it doesn't work out as we thought it would -- & it leaves us absolutely crushed & wounded with disappointment.

Perhaps it is a sorrow that had come into his life; -- maybe he was dealing with the death of a loved one -- or the parting of a friend -- or something that has utterly crushed his heart with sorrow.

Perhaps it was some defiling experience that he had gone through -- something that he stumbled into without realizing what he was doing -- & he found himself caught up in things that made him utterly ashamed of himself afterwards.

Sometimes -- life can be so confusing & exhausting that we can't even speak -- or put thoughts together in a way that makes sense.

In those times -- dear friend -- cry out to God -- even if all you can do is shake your head in bewilderment -- & shed a few tears!

 

Not long after the Gulf War -- real-life hero General Norman Schwarzkopf -- the U.S. General -- appeared on national television -- in an interview with Barbara Walters.

In the course of that conversation -- something touched him deeply.

The eyes of this four star career soldier glazed over -- & tears formed.

Ms. Walters -- with well-practiced bluntness -- said: -- Why, General -- aren't you afraid to cry?"

Stormin' Norman replied without hesitation: -- "No, Barbara. -- I'm afraid of a man who won't cry!"

 

Perhaps the greatest thing you can do to begin to find healing in times of despair -- is to allow yourself to access your emotions.

Stop acting so touch! -- Allow life to soften you -- to cause you to act gently -- to recognize that you need God.

 

 

2. The Searching! -- (77:3-9)

In the hour of his extremity -- the Psalmist commences his search for God. -- He writes: -- (vr. 3) I remembered you, O God, & I groaned;" -- (vr. 6) "I remembered my songs in the night.-- And my heart mused & my spirit inquired" (NIV).

 

At that point the Psalmist begins to ask God some rather searching questions -- & in doing so he invites you & me to ask our deepest questions to God.

My friends -- don't be afraid to ask God the hard questions!

God welcomes them; -- God does not resent our asking -- nor our sincere searching! -- So go ahead & ask God the hard questions!

 

Six questions tumble from the Psalmist lips in vs. 7-9.

"Will the Lord reject forever? -- Will he never show his favor again?

Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion?" (NIV).

 

These are honest questions of one who is trying to understand the meaning of what he is going through.

These are genuine heart cries -- & yet rhetorical in that they clearly demand negative answers.

These are questions we may find ourselves asking too.

They are forced out of our heart when we go through hardship & pain.

The questions are interesting -- because in a sense they answer themselves.

Are God's promises no longer valid? -- Has the flow of His mercy stopped? -- No, no, no!

 

Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego didn't think so!

These three young men -- probably not more than 20 years old -- did not bow down before the golden idol that Nebuchadnezzar set up.

So the Emperor calls them before him & asks them: -- "What God can deliver you out of my hand?" (Daniel 3:15).

These three young men were faced with the same choice the Psalmist is faced with. -- Can God take care of my problem?

Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego were faced with a choice.

They had to decide: -- "Do we believe in God regardless?"

How did they respond?

They answer this most powerful man in the world with these words: -- "Our God is able to deliver us: -- but even if he does not -- let it be known that we are not going to serve your gods (Daniel 3:17-18).

They chose to believe God regardless of their circumstances.

 

And that is what this Psalmist is being asked to do; -- that is what we are often asked to do in the midst of our troubles & trials.

Do we believe God because of what He does for us -- because of His blessings -- or do we simply believe God because of Who He is?

And that question brought the Psalmist to a point of total surrender.

 

 

3. The Surrender! -- (77:10-12).

Verse 10 is the pivot on which this psalm turns from a description of an experience of darkness & despair -- to one of gladness & praise.

Verse 10 divides the psalm into two parts.

 

The first part tells of sorrow overwhelming the soul.

The second part gives a song which is the outcome of a vision that has robbed sorrow of its sting.

In the first part there is no song.

In the second -- a great song pours itself out -- & sorrow is forgotten.

 

The difference between the first part & the second part of this psalm -- is a man brooding over trouble -- & a man seeing high above his troubles & seeing God on His throne!

 

He writes in vr. 10 -- "Then I thought, To this I will appeal: -- the years of the right hand of the Most High'" (NIV).

 

In the first half of the psalm -- self is predominant.

In the second half -- God is seen in His glory upon the throne.

 

There is a shift here from self-centeredness to God-centeredness!

A very simply observation of the psalm makes this perfectly clear: -

In verses 1 to 9 -- the first personal pronoun occurs 22 times -- & there are only 11 references to God by name, title, & pronoun.

In the second half -- there are only 3 personal references -- & 24 mentions of God.

 

The message of the psalm is that to brood on sorrow is to be broken & disheartened -- while on the other hand -- to see God is to sing on the darkest day!

Once we come to know that our lives are in His right hand -- there is light everywhere -- & the song rises & ascends.

 

When I am absorbed in my problems -- it's all about me.

When I turn my attention Godward -- there is less about me -- & more about Him!

 

The questions asked in verses 7-9 -- are now followed by a series of commitments -- shown by the repeated "I will" of surrender in verses 11-12; -- "I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

I will meditate on all your works & consider all your mighty deeds" (NIV).

 

There is a real sense of resolve & purpose in these verses -- as the Psalmist surrenders himself totally to God's way & God's will.

My friends -- when we have reached the low point in life & hit bottom -- the best thing we can do is to totally surrender everything into God's almighty hands. -- Only in complete surrender can we find victory & joy!

The only direction from the bottom is up! -- Yield yourself totally to Him!

 

 

4. The Sovereignty! -- (77:13-20).

Notice how the Psalmist recognizes the Sovereignty of God in the words of verses 13-15 -- "Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? -- You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. -- With your mighty arm you redeemed your people" (NIV).

 

And then he recounts how God parted the waters of the sea -- to allow His people to cross over on dry ground!

Vr. 16 -- "The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you & writhed" -- or cringed.

Vr. 19 -- "Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters -- though your footprints were not seen" (NIV).

In the parting of the water at the Red Sea -- God's power was truly manifested! -- You know the story -- the parting of the Red Sea!

As the Children of Israel left Egypt -- they were caught with a sea in front of them & an army behind them -- & huge mountains on either side. -- They were trapped! -- They had no place to go!

But God met them in that very spot! -- God showed up just at the right time! -- God parted the waters & delivered them!

 

How many times has God done that for you?

Totally hemmed in with no place to turn -- & God shows up -- & like a Shepherd -- leads you gently out of your mess.

Have you ever had this kind of an experience?

I think it is a rather common one among Christians.

 

My friends -- God can do anything -- but He always does the right thing! -- Recognize & accept His all wise Sovereignty!

The reality of my troubles can never contradict the greatness of God!

When we are full of despair -- Peace comes from a total & complete surrender to the full will of an all wise Sovereign God in our lives!

 

Conclusion:

There you have it -- the steps of moving from Despair to Peace!

The sorrow; -- the searching; -- the surrender -- to recognizing the Sovereignty of God Almighty!

 

Problems are a part of every life!

These emotions -- these feelings of being abandoned by God -- & of God not answering our prayers -- will come.

If you haven't experienced them -- I can promise you that you will at some point in your life -- probably at multiple points in your life.

 

God tells us in Isaiah 55 -- "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (55:8).

Because God is so far above us -- so much greater than us -- He is mysterious to us at times.

It is for that very reason that we cannot fathom -- we cannot under-stand the way a mysterious God works in our lives.

 

Was God there all along for this Psalmist?

Yes! -- All night long while he was crying out -- God was there!

But for God's own sovereign purposes -- God chose not to remove that sense of despair -- that emotion from the Psalmist.

Perhaps the Psalmist needed to learn to trust God when the circumstances didn't warrant that trust.

 

My friends -- if you hold a problem closely -- & you focus on that -- what do you see?

You see everything through the lens of that problem!

But the Psalmist has demonstrated for us how we can pull back from the problems -- & get a proper perspective -- as we move from despair to peace!

 

There is a sense in which every Psalm is Messianic -- pointing the way to Jesus Christ! -- Psalm 77 is no exception.

Jesus is there in your Gethsemane with you as you face the hardest battles of your life.

He's there walking you through your past blessings.

He's there while you grapple with life's hard questions.

He's there to help you regain equilibrium when chaos has broken loose in your life.

He's there to help take you through the toughest problems.

He wants to be your Deliverer. -- Why don't you yield to Him today?

 

In times of despair -- we just need to break out in the old Fanny Crosby hymn & sing: --

All the way my savior leads me;

What have I to dread beside?

Can I doubt His tender mercy,

Who through life has been my guide?

Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,

Here by faith in Him to dwell!

For I know what'ere befall me,

Jesus doeth all things well;

For I know what'ere befall me,

Jesus doeth all things well.

 

 

 

 

Pastor Lyle W. Pettit

Wynne Chapel -- Cochise, AZ 85606

www.wynnechapel.org