I was one of those extremely emotional and sometimes out-of-control kind of kids. At least I was as a teenager. I still remember the feeling of helplessness during a teenaged meltdown. I'd get upset and begin crying, blubbering, seeing red (so to speak) and before I knew it my emotions were off the charts and I couldn't reign them in for the life of me.
I'm glad to report that I haven't behaved quite like that in a long time, but those emotional storms can still come my way occasionally. There are times when anger or hurt or frustration can grow (because I've neglected to deal with things one at a time) to the point that my feelings are encompassing me like an angry storm cloud. And if I don't seek shelter immediately in the arms of my God, I know the raging winds, violent rains, and thunder and lightening are sure to follow.
I don't know if you "just lose it" occasionally or not, but I know it happens to the best of us. The author of Psalm 77 indicates that he had gotten himself in such a temper tantrum--whether it was caused by self pity, anger, sadness, or frustration with circumstances--that he couldn't see himself out of it. The emotional storm had erupted and he couldn't seem to calm it.
More amazing, even when he called out to God, his spirit continued to be disturbed and grow faint with distress. Does that seem odd to you? Shouldn't a simple cry for help to our God settle the storm? Not necessarily.
Listen to the psalmist's words:
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
In the night my hand was
stretched out without weariness;
My soul refused to be comforted.
When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint.
Like a child caught up in an uncontrollable temper tantrum, the psalmist can't be soothed, refuses to be calmed down, resists the embraces of his Parent. I've experienced that resistance from my own children when they were younger (and in their early teen years, too). And as I think way back I can even remember that feeling of being so distraught that you can't even yield to the soothing attempts from someone who loves you. Emotions are running too high, zinging around you like a fierce lightening storm, and it feels like you'll never be calm again. The storm will never lift so the sun can come out.
What's that all about? I gather from Psalm 77 that there comes a point in our distress when we have to be willing to yield to God's work in our lives. We can resist His calming hand and continue to thrash around with emotion and accusations and tears and complaints...or we can stop...yield to Him and allow sanity to be restored.
At first the Psalmist blames God for his inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He says,
Will the Lord reject forever?
And will He never be favorable again?
Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end forever?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?
I've done that too. I've gotten myself into such a tizzy over my circumstances, gotten so wrapped up in my emotions, that I couldn't fathom things ever being peaceful again. I've come to the conclusion that God must not be paying me any attention because if He was He'd calm the storm. And like the disciples on the boat being tossed here and there by the storm waves, I've felt the need to wake Jesus up so He could heed my cries. Where is God? Is He asleep? Does He not care?
To make matters worse, the psalmist makes a conscious decision to meditate on his problems, to sing songs of woe while lying on his bed at night, to rehearse over and over and over again the trouble surrounding him, and to ponder the misfortunes that have recently come his way. And he's even gone back in time and added all the other bad things he's experienced in the past to his current list of woes. He has chosen to throw himself a pity party and he's not leaving any time soon. (see Psalm 77:5-6)
I've hosted similar pity parties and my bet is you have too. They're rather fashionable, you know. Quite the rage among us mortals. But also quite destructive.
In the end, thanks be to God, the psalmist decides to change the direction of his thoughts. He makes a decision to stop thinking about his troubles and turns his thoughts to God instead. Listen in.
I shall remember the deeds of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old.
I will meditate on all Thy work,
And muse on Thy deeds.
Did you see the hard-fought for, conscious decision to change his focus? I "shall remember," I "will remember", I "will meditate on", and I will "muse on." Finally, the psalmist has taken off his party hat, put down his noise makers, and acknowledged the One who has been there all along just waiting to be welcomed in. But I can't stress enough how much work and effort that took on the part of the psalmist. It's no small feat to choose to stop wallowing and decide to start praising instead. Can I get a witness? Amen! And amen!
I don't know if you're in the middle of an emotional maelstrom today or not. Chances are, someone is. I've been in a few in the past six months or so. Life isn't easy and we can get so twisted out of shape so easily. But there's hope today for a peaceful retreat from that chaotic emotional storm. There's One who is just waiting to put His loving arms around you and soothe you. And He doesn't offer false hope. He offers solutions, rest, victory, unconditional love, forgiveness, strength, wisdom...you name it...whatever you need to get to sunnier days.
So if you find yourself in the middle of a temper tantrum today, may I suggest you quit flailing your arms about long enough to allow Him to put His strong arms around you. Lean in to Him, yield to Him, rest on His strong shoulder. And choose to focus on Him instead of your woeful circumstances. Wondering where to begin? Check out the rest of Psalm 77 for a few suggestions. The psalmist focused on God's ways, His character, and His unwavering relationship with the people He loves. It's a good place to start.
Labels: God is good, Perspective, Walk Through the Bible