Today's lectionary readings: Psalm 77; Proverbs 30:1-9; Matthew 4:1-11
Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 77 (NIV)
I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. 2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b] 4 You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. 5 I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; 6 I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? 8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
10 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.”
13 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. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. 17 The clouds poured down water, the heavens resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. 18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. 19 Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
This psalm is familiar to my heart. I imagine the psalmist as myself, tossing and turning, unable to sleep, with to-do lists, said and unsaid conversations, worries and philosophical musings all jumbled up in a simultaneously revved up (and exhausted) brain. Who among us has not experienced the agony of “middle of the night” worries, when the night seems so long, and sleep and peace so far away?
At my best, when I can successfully turn my mind from darkness, this middle of the night wakefulness can transform into its own sacred space, just as it did for the writer of this psalm. It is my time. Free from the demands of my roles as wife, mother, professional, daughter, sister, friend, citizen…I can ponder and wonder and dream. I can choose to release my death grip on my desire for control and security. I can remember Who is actually in control and how mysterious and wondrous it is to be a soul in this body, in this world He/She created. I can relax, knowing my shepherd is leading me through the mighty waters.
Next time your “middle of the night” worries overwhelm you, name them as such. Be gracious and non-judgmental to your own pain. Turn your mind to gratitude. Be specific about what you are grateful for. Remember the miracles and mighty deeds of our Deliverer.
Dear Lord, in every situation, guide our hearts and minds to your hope and peace.
About the Author
Aline is a mental health professional living with her husband and two-year-old son
in Chattanooga, TN.