Today my pastor, the Esteemed Reverend Moses Butcher, spoke to my sad and stressed-out heart from Psalm 77.
"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."
I'm overwhelmed, sad, distressed, and anxious. I'm experiencing the kind of emotional and spiritual fatigue that makes me want to browse the chip aisle, watch Monk marathons, and consume mind-altering substances. This, apparently, was the emotional state of Asaph when he wrote this psalm.
Pastor Moses pointed out that we don't know the source of Asaph's distress. It could have been something awful from his past that still haunted him; a terrible choice he made that hurt someone; a besetting sin he could not let go; or possibly the illness or death of someone he loved. It might have been the universal feeling of emptiness that every honest human being admits to feeling at times in his life, that everyone recognizes but can't name.
We don't know why Asaph was feeling distress, only that he felt it. The source doesn't matter, because the remedy is the same.
"I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak."
Poor, pitiful Asaph. He seems to be doing the right thing--remembering God; but it only brings him more sorrow. He remembers God, and then he groans. He's thinking and pondering, but he only grows weaker and sadder. God is even "putting toothpicks on his eyelids", as Rev. Moses described it, not letting Asaph find brief respite in sleep. He can't even put words to his distress.
"Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
It reaches that point, sometimes, doesn't it? You begin to wonder if what you believe about God is true. You may not say it out loud, but when you're alone, when you pray, you wonder, like Virginia, "Are you there, God? It's me, E. Peevie."
So what's the remedy? What's the tonic, what's the spiritual penicillin that cures the desperate heart?
"Then I thought, 'To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.' I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works, and consider all your mighty deeds."
The remedy is remembering. Asaph remembers God's deeds, miracles, holiness. He ponders the greatness of the God who rescued the people of Israel from centuries of slavery. He reminds us to remember God's greatest Rescue, to contemplate the cross, to soak ourselves, as my pastor expressed it, in the gospel.
What is the gospel? It's the good news that I can be right with God because of what Jesus did on the cross. It's the good news that this empty feeling, this guilt, this distress or sorrow or fear or whatever weighs down your heart like a bag of sand can be lifted because Jesus fought the battle for my soul and your soul, and He won.
Remembering, observed Esteemed Reverend Moses Butcher, is not a fast-acting cortisone shot. Remembering is a spiritual discipline. It's like physical therapy that restores gradually, healing years of dysfunction through re-alignment, restoring strength and mobility after months of atrophy. Remembering is the remedy for a sorrowful, weary, oppressed heart.