for they did not believe in God
    or trust in his deliverance. (Psalm 78:22)

Two weeks ago, we talked about finding hope during tough times. (You can read the post here.) Hope is a funny thing. With hope, humans can endure some of the most difficult trials. Without hope, even minor set backs can feel overwhelming.

Grabbing hold of hope isn’t easy, especially when you feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending torrent, but by staying connected to God, reminding ourselves of who He is and what He’s done, and taking our thoughts captive, hope comes easier.

Lately I’ve been camped out in Psalm 77-78. If you are having a difficult time, I suggest you take a few days to prayerfully meditate over this section of history.

Psalm 77 begins with an honest prayer of desperation. The psalmist cries out to God, expressing a sense of hopelessness.

I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands,
    and I would not be comforted.

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
    I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
    the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
    My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

“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?” (Psalm 77:1-9)

But he doesn’t stay here. Notice his deliberate choice in verses 10-12:

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

The psalmist decides to remember God’s miracles of long ago, to consider His works, and to meditate on His mighty deeds.

In other words, he diligently and persistently took his thoughts captive, replacing negative and anxious thoughts with truth.

He begins by focusing on God’s nature:

Your ways, God, are holy.
    What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
    you display your power among the peoples.

God is holy–without fault or error. God performs miracles. This means He is not limited by our circumstances or understanding. God is powerful, and His power is displayed among us–by His loving, holy hand working through our lives.

The rest of the passage and much of Psalm 78 recalls numerous miracles God has performed.

This prayer appears to be a model of Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

I think the key here is praying with thanksgiving. When you’re feeling down or discouraged, counting your blessings can be hard, but doing so reminds us of God’s love, power, and grace.

I know many of you are going through some really tough times. I imagine there are days where just making it through feels like a challenge. Taking your thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ will take strength, perseverance, and determination, but I believe the results will be worth it. When we quiet our anxious thoughts and center them on Christ and His truth, we are better able to hear His Words of guidance and comfort. And when we remember all the times God has shown up for us in the past we are reminded of His power and constant care.

I love the honest emotions revealed in the psalms–the authentic prayers of a heart crying out to God. Today spend a moment meditating on Psalm 77-78. Is there a particular verse that speaks to you? Share it with us and how God used it to guide, strengthen or comfort you.

Psalm 78:22 stuck out to me, especially in the context of the passage.

for they did not believe in God
    or trust in his deliverance.

God had rescued the Israelites from slavery, brought them across the Red Sea, provided water for them from a rock, but when their next difficulty hit, they didn’t believe God could or would come through. Perhaps they saw each trial as something different or maybe they worried He’d changed His mind. Regardless, their actions–and most likely, their angst–were a direct result of their core belief about who God was and what He’d do.

I wonder how often our struggles have the same root cause.

Join us at Living by Grace as we take about grabbing hold of and living in the peace Christ has already provided.

And make sure to come back to Living By Grace Friday and Saturday for our in-depth look at the book of James.