When I read through the psalms, there are psalms that fall flat on my ears; there are those psalms that are so bouncy and happy and just hardly seem entirely true. Then there are psalms that strike deep in my soul and wreck me with the truth that they contain and the truth that I feel beyond what my own words can express.
Psalm 77 is one of the latter. There are many kinds of Christians, as I once heard someone refer to them, there are Summer Christians and Winter Christians. Summer Christians resonate with the happiness and the joy of the celebration psalms, and the Winter Christians tend to resonate with the laments. Despite being an optimist, I am most certainly a Winter Christian. Lent is my favorite season of the church year. My soul comes alive when I hear a true lament because I know that the shared truth of holding individual or communal laments. Psalm 77 speaks deep to my soul.
Psalm 77 is the prayer of one who has know a difficult time. It is the prayer of one who knows deep within her soul that while God is good, her situation is not. It’s a prayer that holds these two truths in tandem with each other. Her terrible circumstance doesn’t negate God’s goodness, and God’s goodness doesn’t deny the terribleness of her circumstances.
The depth of her pain is hard to articulate, “You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.” (v. 4) Does the Lord, she asks in v. 7, plan to abandon her forever? Her is an isolation of inner and outer pain; it is not merely a rough patch, this has been her situation long enough for there to have been periods of searching and wailing. Has, she follows in v. 8, God’s steadfast love ceased forever?
If you read the psalm often you will come to know the term ‘steadfast love’ or hesed some interpreters don’t translate hesed because it is such a unique phrase that is crucial to a Hebrew understanding of the way God interacts with God’s people. To ask if God’s hesed has ceased forever is the rock bottom for the psalmist; there is no greater injustice than this.
Then. She begins to break out of it. She begins, slowly at first, to state her intention with a series of “I will” statements in v. 11-12. She will recall all that God has done, she will remember the wonders done, she will meditate on God’s work, and recall God’s power. And then, the overwhelming state of her current situation fades into gratitude as she follows through with her intention. God has, and therefore will continue to be, faithful to God’s people, even her. Even in the darkness of her present situation, the God who does might works will be present with her.