It is not at all uncommon for God’s people to go through periods of time in which it appears that God Himself has forsaken them. Perhaps it’s a prolonged period of illness or injury that doesn’t improve. Perhaps it’s a loved one killed by police, as we’ve seen again in the last few days. Perhaps it’s a child straying from the faith, wandering heedlessly down a path of destruction. Perhaps it’s a period of spiritual dryness, in which nothing tastes. Whatever you may be walking through, you are not the first to experience God’s absence. Just look at Psalm 77 – it is one of the most helpful expressions of “Where are you, God???” in the whole Bible, for it not only gives voice to the deep cries of our heart, but it also shows us where to go for relief.
Asaph was where we so often find ourselves: in a day of trouble (2). He sought the Lord, crying out to Him, believing that He would hear him (1), yet he did not find comfort (2). In fact, he found just the opposite: “When I remember God, then I am disturbed” (3). Going to God made his troubles even worse, for as we see from his list of questions in verses 7-9, it appeared to Asaph that God had rejected him, that He would never be favorable again, that His lovingkindness had ceased forever, that His promise had come to an end, that He had forgotten to be gracious, that He had withdrawn His compassion. In a nutshell, it seemed that “the right hand of God had changed” (10). We’ve all been here. God feels distant, unconcerned with my affliction. He only purposes to harm me. The only proper interpretation of our circumstances seems to be that He is no longer the faithful and caring and loving God He promised to be. We are afflicted, and then afflicted again as we contemplate our situation.
When we find ourselves where Asaph was, then we must go where Asaph went. And where did he go? To the past. “I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds” (11-12). Asaph went back in his mind to God’s mighty acts of deliverance and redemption, and what he found there was the holiness of God (13), the greatness of God (13), the strength of God (14), the redeeming grace of God (15). He found a God whose ways are ultimately beyond figuring out; indeed, “Your way was in the sea and Your path in the mighty waters, and Your footprints may not be known” (19). But even in the darkness of God’s ways, he found a God who carefully and lovingly led His people like a flock by His appointed servants (20).
Asaph found resolution in his trouble by remembering – remembering who God had revealed Himself to be in the past brought the comfort He could not find as he cried out to God in the present. Seeing God’s character and concern in days gone by assured him of God’s nearness in the days to come. Yes, it can indeed appear that God has changed, that He has rejected us and has forgotten to be gracious, that His promises have failed. But appearances can be deceiving, and the past brings the present into clearer focus.
If Asaph could gain comfort today by meditating on God’s faithful power yesterday, how much more can the disciple of Jesus Christ? “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Jesus Christ was truly forsaken and abandoned by His Father in heaven, enduring the whole measure of judicial wrath in our place, in order that we might never be orphans again, but forever sons and daughters of the King on high. May the Lord give us grace to cry out to Him in our pain, to remember the days of old, to fix our eyes on Jesus, the forsaken one, that we might find what Asaph found and even more – He will never, ever let us go.