Crying out to God in dark times is something we see throughout scripture. But crying out is not where God hopes we will stay. He has more for us.
During the last few years I have struggled with migraines. Many days I cried out to God because I was in pain and exhausted. But the days when I was able to move past the emotions of the moment are the days when I can see that God was growing me. The problem is my emotions! I needed an action plan for the dark days so that my emotions do not rule me.
Cry Out to God.
God values us so much. He understands our feelings and he walked in our steps. No other religion has a God that walked the earth and identifies with us on such an intimate level. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept with Mary and Martha. Yes we can cry out to God when we are distressed. He hears us and empathizes with us. After all he has experienced the pain of living on this earth.
So many Psalms begin with the author crying out to God, pleading with him for rescue. Take a look at Psalm 77, it holds an action plan for us to use when we are in the midst of a dark time in our life.
Be Intentional about Remembering God’s Character
First, notice that the writer is physically affected by his grief. His spirit is so struck that he is faint and speechless. Walking through a dark time may mean that you are being physically affected by depression, anxiety or stress related physical symptoms. Those things are not beyond God’s control. But in the midst of his grief he does three very specific things:
1. He remembers his heart song
This is a recent concept for me. I just read “The Insanity of Obedience” by Nik Ripkin and in it he describes a man who spent almost two decades in prison. He describes one practice that he felt helped him to stay strong in prison during that time.
Each morning he would stand and face the east and sing his ‘heart song.’ He experienced greater persecution as a result of singing each day, but this practice encouraged him so much that he considered it to be worth it.
One reason I love this is that the Psalmist’s emotions are out of control at the beginning of this Psalm. In the middle of his emotions he realizes that he needs to rely on God. What does he turn to to help him? His song, a song that has moved his heart in the past and that will remind him of God’s character and goodness.
This has caused me to think about what my heart song would be, and I love that the Psalmist here says that he needs to remember HIS song. I have been praying that God would help me identify some heart songs to use in difficult times.
While I was walking through some health difficulties earlier this year, I began the practice of looking out my window each morning. It faces the mountains on the east. I would recall my heart Psalm, Psalm 121, and say ‘my help comes from the Lord.’
Songs can contain so much theology, and in times when I cannot form the words I need, I can still sing the songs that shape my faith. This is clearly a calming influence for the Psalmist here. He goes from being unable to speak to being able to meditate on God’s character after worshiping through song.
2. He meditates
His next step is to ask himself several questions about the character of God. I have certain questions that I ask myself in difficult times.
Did God know about this?
Does God see me where I am?
Does God change?
Of course all these are easy questions to answer. I have the intellectual knowledge that God is good. But I need the reminder for my emotional heart.
The Psalmist poses similar questions. For a believer, these are rhetorical questions if we believe God’s word! Of course his love does not cease. No, God does not forget grace. But asking these questions of myself puts me at a fork in the road. I can choose to say ‘yes, I believe the Bible and I choose to follow God, or I can choose to put my trust elsewhere.
One thing that I continually remind my daughters, is that our emotions lie to us. But the choices that we make during emotional turmoil can show what our character really is. During the hard times, these questions don’t feel obvious. It feels like we are forgotten. But I can choose to believe that what I claim in the good times, is also true on the dark days.
3. He searches
Next, he makes a conscious decision to remember God’s actions in the past. Here the Psalmist recounts acts God has done that show his power. He brought the Israelites out of slavery. He controls the waters.
Yes! I can reasonably assume that the God who created the earth with his very words can handle my current situation. If he was faithful to Joseph for 13 years in prison, if he has been faithful to Paul through beatings and imprisonment, I can know that he will be faithful to me.
This doesn’t stop with biblical examples. Look at how he has been faithful to friends and family. Think of the times you have personally seen God care for you or someone you know in a tangible way. Make a list to keep in your Bible so that you can remember the milestones of your faith when you are distressed. Tracking God’s goodness from your past, reminds you that he has his hand on your future.
God’s Will For My Life is Not Always Easy
Joseph’s personal choice for his own life probably wouldn’t have included being sold into slavery and spending years in prison. God’s will for our lives may not always be fun, but we are told that it is for our good. Had Joseph been able to pull himself out of his circumstances countless people would have starved during the famine.
Just because I am in a dark time does not mean that God has forgotten me or turned his back on me. And just because I am in the middle of a dark time in my life doesn’t mean that I cannot cry out to God that I am in pain. But if all I ever do is cry out, if i never move beyond that in the midst of my anguish, I am missing out on his goodness.
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