I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me. 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. I think of God, and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints. You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. —Psalm 77
“I’m fine. It’s fine. Everything is fine.” So many of my clients have recited these words for so long they have forgotten how to acknowledge their real pain. I have found that people will quietly endure pain described in this psalm for weeks, months, or even years on end, until they finally become overwhelmed. This often takes the form of a divorce, an arrest, or a suicide attempt.
What do we do during the “day of trouble?” We cry aloud to God to find comfort, but for some reason, “my soul refuses to be comforted.” We lose sleep, and we cannot even describe the anguish we are in. On top of all of this, we experience a theological crisis: “God promised to never leave or forsake me, but now he has turned his back on me.”
Occasionally, clients will reveal that they have reached out to God during dark times, but they felt all they received was silence. They asked for relief from the pain but they feel forgotten. They are praying like they’ve never prayed before, but still their pain overwhelms. “Has God forgotten to be gracious?” (v. 9).
Perhaps that is the whole point. Scripture reminds us over and over that God is merciful and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6–7), that God never changes (Hebrews 13:8), and that God desires an intimate relationship with his people (Isaiah 43:1; Jeremiah 31:33). Scripture assures us that God is our everlasting hope. Because of these promises, I do not believe that God causes our suffering. I do believe He can certainly use our suffering so that we might “cry aloud to God,” “think of God,” and “meditate and search my spirit.” The psalmist reminds us that even amid our suffering, it is out of God’s character to spurn or abandon, to be unloving or to withhold compassion. Even on our darkest days, God is inseparable from his goodness and mercy. For that, as we draw ever closer to the cross, we can persevere.