You’ve probably heard the old hymn ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus. The lyrics go like this: ‘Have you trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer.’ The idea of taking our problems to the Lord in prayer is a well-known prescription in Christian circles, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s enough to steady us. Sometimes we need a new angle on taking our problems to the Lord in prayer.
Let’s consider Psalm 77 where the psalmist Asaph is in trouble. He’s taking his problems to the Lord, but it’s not comforting him this time:
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. (Psalm 77:1-3 NRSV)
Asaph goes on to ask questions, the same questions you and I ask when we’re at the end of our ropes. He asks:
“Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” (v.9).
Asaph initially concludes that he must have done something to turn God’s heart away, or that God has changed. But then he makes an important decision, one that is just as important as praying in the first place. He looks to the past for evidence of God’s faithfulness and remembers God’s deliverance of the people of Israel through the Red Sea:
Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (vv. 19-20).
Asaph remembered a situation when the Israelites were fleeing Egypt with the Egyptian army in pursuit. They could see the Egyptian army on one side and the Red Sea on the other with no apparent way out. God opened the sea.
He answered their cries for deliverance though his ‘footprints were unseen.’ As is often the case, God chose to resolve the situation with a completely different solution than what was expected. Has that happened to you? Like Asaph, we can trust that God’s solution to our problem will be the best outcome for everyone.
While taking our cares to the Lord in prayer is still a good idea, it also helps to remind ourselves of stories of God’s faithfulness. When we are faced with trials and temptations, we can choose to think about God’s past provision in our lives and in the lives of others. God’s faithfulness in the past gives us hope that God will be faithful to us now. Today, let us rest securely in God’s faithfulness. Even if you can’t see his footprints in your current circumstances, just like he has in the past, he is carrying you through.