In the Psalms, we often see a person in real, emotional pain. There is fear. There is sorrow. There is disappointment. God does not hide from us the full spectrum of human emotions, even those which lead us into despair.
Look at the words of the psalmist who is in genuine pain.
1 I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.
Moaning, tears, fainting spirit, all these are symptoms of a deep and real sorrow. The Psalmist weeps and is not comforted. He cries to God, and does not find in his prayer the comfort he desires.
What will the psalmist do? His prayers do not feel answered. He wants God to take away the pain and the Lord does not do so. Where will he find hope?
5 I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
The psalmist wanted to remember the joy he had before. Though his pain was not going away with a simple time of present prayer, he sent his memory in search of past joy. He looked back to a time when he had the confidence in God he wants now. He looked bac even to see where God had been faithful in the past.
10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
So the hurting psalmist remembered the deeds of the Lord in the past. He looked back over Scripture to find what God had done to prove his faithfulness, his mercy, and his justice. He remembered from Old Testament stories how the Lord had delivered Israel from dangers. He remembered the power, holiness, and faithfulness of God. And in that memory, the psalmist found renewed confidence for his own situation.
The Psalm ends with the psalmist specifically remembering the Exodus. The Lord showed his great power over the powers of the world when he led his people out of Egypt. Even the waters moved aside at the command of the Lord. God shoed himself greater than any trouble Israel ever faced.
And so the Psalmist found comfort. He was comforted in the knowledge that the God who parted the Red Sea is the same God he was counting on for help. Even though his circumstances had not changed, the psalmist found hope in the power and perfection of the Lord. God has been faithful in the past. He has proved himself worthy of praise. He will not fail in the present.
For you and me, this Psalm should be instructive. WE will hurt. From time to time, we may despair of ever finding joy again. People go through very hard times. But the answer is not to give up. Yes, we pray. Sometimes praying is too hard. Sometimes the night is too long. So then what? Remember. Remember the faithfulness of God. Remember the mighty works of the Lord. Remember the ways in which God has already proved his goodness. The Lord does not have to give us what we want in the here and now to remind us that he is always faithful, always holy, always right, always present, always powerful, and always going to do what is perfect.