Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NASB)
Have you ever been stuck in a situation where you were crying out to God over and over about it but felt that God was nowhere to be found? Never, right? :) If you've never been in that situation, I want to know your secret! What do you do when you can't seem to hear or see God when you so desparately need him?
The psalms are filled with examples of how to purposefully choose to turn our focus upward to God instead of dwelling on our circumstances here on earth. Psalm 77 is one such example. Now to my "unpacking" of Psalm 77 ...
Seeking God (1-9) - In our distress, we should cry out to God. No doubt about it. We can question, we can doubt and we can dump all of our feelings and concerns out on the table. We may lose sleep like our psalmist did as we try to figure out where God is and why He is waiting so long to help us. However, no matter how hard we try, we won't ever be able to understand all of God's workings in the world and in our lives.
"Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?" Selah. (Psalm 77:7-9 NIV)
Remembering God (10-12) - At some point in our despair we have to make a choice. We have to decide to think on positive things, the things we know to be true, rather than to continue in our circular musings of why things are and what ought to be. This moment of truth - truth, because we turn our focus to the truth - is the turning point in dealing with our problems. Remembering God's character and past works in our own lives will give us hope.
Then I thought, "To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High." I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. (Psalm 77:10-12 NIV)
Praising God (13-20) - How refreshing it is to get to the point where even in our deepest sorrows we can praise God for who He is and for past miracles in our lives! After reflecting on our own victories through God in the past and after taking a look at God's word to remind us of the many incredible feats He performed for His people, we will have no choice to praise God for who He is, what He has done and what He has yet to do. We will be reminded that there is nothing too hard for God...ever.
Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. (Psalm 77: 13-14 NIV)
What can you choose to praise God for today? What can you choose to intentionally imagine? Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that taking our minds off of sad circumstances is easy by any means. But we must and we can choose the things we think about. If we choose the right focus, we'll spend much more time in better moods. That is a promise from God.
Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! ... (Phil 4:4 NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7 NIV)