Connections 06.26.2022: In Darkness and Despair

Psalm 77

For people like me who cope with anxiety or other mental health issues, nighttime is often more of an obstacle to overcome than a respite to enjoy. The sun sets and we climb into bed, weary from the day and ready for sleep to come. But even if we drift off, inevitably we awaken, gasping for air, sweating, our hearts pounding, nauseous, losing our grip on reality. These things can certainly happen during the day, whether we face a stressful situation or not, but anxiety and panic tend to be worse at night.

Our psalmist may have struggled with his mental health. Maybe not. Either way, he obviously faced great difficulty in his life. And while things were tough for him during the day, it all got worse at night. He begged God for help and couldn’t seem to connect: “in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. …You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled I cannot speak” (vv. 2, 4). He felt like God had forgotten him (vv. 7-9).

Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. I lie in bed staring at the ceiling, praying desperately, waiting for some kind of confirmation that God is with me and will give me peace. There are even times when I can’t put a name to my fears and worries, and my spirit moans without words (v. 3).

Help is available for people like me if we can access and afford it: therapy, coping strategies like breathing and grounding techniques, medication. All of these have helped me at various points in my life. Our psalmist didn’t have these modern strategies, so he tried something else that can still help us today: he remembered. When he felt that he was in darkness and despair, that God had forgotten him, he remembered the ways God had worked in the past: “I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds” (vv. 11-12).

We can do this too. As we struggle to confront our worries and fears, to find balance and focus more on what is than what if, we may need modern aids to help us. That is good and right. But let’s also take time to remember the ways the Lord has walked with us and with God’s people in the past. Let’s rest our faith on this truth—that God has always been and will always be with us, no matter what.

Discussion

• What are some of your biggest worries or fears? Why do these things have such a hold on you?
• Are there times when you struggle to sleep because of an unsettled spirit? How do you cope at such times?
• Do you or does someone you know use modern aids to cope with mental health issues like anxiety, panic, or depression? How are these aids helpful?
• In what ways can you identify with the psalmist’s prayer?
• What does the psalmist remember about God’s work in the past? How can it be helpful to remember God’s work in your past as you seek assurance of God’s help in your present?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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