I remembered God and was troubled

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Did you know that remembering God can also be a cause of trouble? Psalm 77 tells us exactly this. The first three verses of this Psalm captured my attention. It reads:

“I cried out to God with my voice—To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed” (NKJV).

Take note of verse three in particular where David writes, “I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.” 

The Hebrew word translated “remembered” is zˉa·ˉkˇar which implies an act of recalling “information or events, with a focus on responding in an appropriate manner”.1 Further, the Hebrew word hˉa·mˉa(h) translated as “troubled” can also mean to “murmur, growl, roar, be boisterous”.2 In light of this information the first phrase of verse 3 can also be read, “I remembered God, and murmured or growled.” I wondered, how can remembering God be a source of trouble, murmuring or growling? The Bible teaches that remembering God offers encouragement, strength and hope in our moments of need, but Psalm 77:3 seems to suggest that remembering God can trouble us as well. How and why?

In Psalm 77, the psalmist shares feelings of distress and abandonment, questioning God’s presence in difficult times. The psalmist finds it hard to understand why God is not intervening and answering his prayers while He is capable of doing so. Verse 3 deals with one of the most challenging aspects of faith. Witnessing suffering when it seems that God could intervene, but chooses not to, is difficult to digest. 

In Psalm 77:3, “the more the psalmist meditated upon the incomprehensible administration of God’s government, the sadder he became, and the more inclined to rebel”.3

Sadly this aspect of our journey with God at times is the reason why many stop believing in God and leave the church. They stop reading the Bible and stop praying to God. This does not only include the new converts, but also those who have journeyed with God for years. 

Verses 4-9 of Psalm 77 helps us to understand the psalmist’s anguish. He writes, 

“You hold my eyelids open; 
I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 
I have considered the days of old, 
The years of ancient times. 
I call to remembrance my song in the night; 
I meditate within my heart, 
And my spirit makes diligent search. 
Will the Lord cast off forever? 
And will He be favourable no more? 
Has His mercy ceased forever? 
Has His promise failed forevermore? 
Has God forgotten to be gracious? 
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” (NKJV). 

In these verses the psalmist blames God for the trouble he is experiencing. He has come to a point in his suffering where he is beginning to question, “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favourable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” (vv7–9). Starting from verses 10-20, the psalmist takes a U-turn. He once again focuses on God’s works and wonders. He turns to the sign posts in his life that help him to notice God’s glorious providences and interventions. He reflects upon God’s redemptive acts and that is what offers him comfort and hope in his present trouble. 

However, one may ask, would meditating upon God’s past providences, interventions, redemptive acts and miracles guarantee the psalmist God’s help in his present trouble? Well, that’s the question we all have to deal with. Don’t we? Will God offer him freedom this time or not? We know answers to these questions remain with God, but reflecting upon God’s past love and care definitely offers peace and hope that nothing else can offer. Hence, the psalmist meditates upon his journey with God. 

Philip Yancey in Where Is God When It Hurts? examines the presence of God in human suffering. He points out that the Bible never promises a life without pain for believers, but instead offers the assurance of God’s presence within it: “For the follower of Jesus, any unexplained suffering becomes a microcosm of the cross—pain that leads to redemption, to new life.”4

Further, in his book Disappointment with God, Yancey addresses the perplexing issue of unanswered prayers, suggesting that such experiences can deepen our understanding of faith and trust in God: “Our disappointments with God may actually reflect our disappointments with ourselves and our unrealistic expectations of Him.”5 This perspective challenges us all to re-evaluate our expectations of God and to find faith not in the avoidance of suffering, but in the presence and promises of God within it. 

John Piper, in Desiring God, articulates that the essence of faith lies in finding satisfaction in God’s presence and promises, regardless of life’s circumstances: “The essence of faith is being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.”6 Such an approach to faith encourages us to trust in God’s goodness and sovereign plan, even when His ways are inscrutable. 

Through Psalm 77 we are invited to explore a deeper understanding of God’s nature, the purpose of suffering and the call to trust in His divine wisdom. 

This Psalm does not offer easy answers but instead encourages a faith that rests in the assurance of God’s love, the redemptive work of Christ, and the hope of ultimate restoration when Jesus returns to take us home for eternity.

  1. James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems Inc, 1997). 
  2. Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 242. 
  3. Francis D Nichol, ed, The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol 3 (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977), 812. 
  4. Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), p215. 
  5. Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), p237. 
  6. John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Portland: Multnomah, 1986), p254. .

Younis Masih is a field minister at Aranui English and Garden City Fellowship in the South New Zealand Conference.

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