Recently I’ve had some ‘flashbacks’ with troubling thoughts about various things plaguing my mind. The memories they raise bring anxiety and stress. Through these times it can be difficult to remain positive and also to be present with other people in their situations. My memory has been something of a curse as I’ve chewed over these troubling thoughts and relived the stress and negative emotions.
The psalmist in Psalm 77 seems to have had a similar experience. He cried out to God for help but didn’t seem to experience the help he wanted. His thoughts in the middle of the night were: Will the Lord reject for ever? Will he never show his favour again? … Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
My experience is all too real for the psalmist but where he leads next is transforming. He said,
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77:11-12)
The psalmist looked to the past, to his previous experience of God’s goodness and faithfulness and importantly to the great and powerful acts of God throughout the years. The psalmist goes on to recount the victory of God when He led His people through the sea, delivering them from slavery in Egypt. He is reminding himself of God’s goodness in the past. He is taking that ability of his mind that chews over bad thoughts and difficult times and turning it into a blessing. He is chewing over, meditating on a great victory of God and allowing that wonderful truth to transform his thinking.
This does not mean that it was easy for the psalmist. He still had to live in his time and place with the reality of his troubles - the reasons he was calling out to God for help in the first place - but his attitude to his situation was transformed by his new meditation on God.
At the end of the psalm my imagination was captured by this line:
“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”
God led His people through the sea to freedom, but he wasn’t seen himself. The activity of God was evident but he didn’t reveal himself explicitly apart from his activity. Today, God is active all around us, and yet it is only those who believe who see the evidence. When we chew over God’s great activities of the past, (specifically Jesus’ life, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection and ascension), God will transform our vision and thus transform our experience of the world around us. Keep remembering God’s miracles of long ago. Keep reminding yourself of all of God’s works in the past and in your life. Meditate on them and chew them over.
The realisation of God’s permanent presence with us gives us peace even when we could be distressed by the various anxieties and stresses that plague us. The best blessing of God is God himself: Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.