Confidence in the Midst of Despair


As a child, I watched a recurring skit on the television show Hee-Haw. A group of moonshiners sung, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” As they sang the verses, they sobbed and despaired over their bad luck with life and women. The skit and song are humorous, making me nostalgic for those days of my childhood. However, despair itself is nothing to be laughed at.

Psalm 77 was written by Aspah in response to a personal crisis during which he found great comfort in contemplating God’s past victories. The psalmist asks six questions, all of which relate to God’s character and attributes. We have probably all asked these questions at some point in our lives:

  1. Has God rejected us? (v. 7a)
  2. Will God ever again show favor to His people? (v. 7b)
  3. Has God’s unfailing love vanished forever? (v. 8a)
  4. Have God’s promises failed? (v. 8b)
  5. Has God forgotten to be gracious?  (v. 9a)
  6. Is God so angry, that he has “slammed the door on his compassions”? (v. 9b, (NLT)

These types of questions are prompted by despair. Despair can be sly, slowly descending upon us and surrounding us until we find ourselves in a state of “doom, despair, and agony.” But despair does not have the final word for God’s people. This psalm is noteworthy for the way in which the tone changes throughout. In vv. 1-9 the verses are in a minor key. These verses are saturated with gloom, despair, and agony. But the tone shifts in vv. 10-20. These verses are in the major key and are saturated with hope and confidence! What has changed?

There is no record or indication from the psalmist that his circumstances changed from verses 1–9 to verses 10–20. In spite of Asaph’s despair, he finds comfort in remembering who God is and what God has accomplished. In verse 10, the psalmist says, “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.”

In spite of despair, find comfort in remembering who God is and what God has accomplished.

Underscore those words on your heart when you are in the throes of despair and are tempted to forget what God has done: “I will remember….”

I will remember that God has not rejected me. “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:31-33).

I will remember that God will show favor to his people. “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

I will remember that God’s unfailing love lasts forever. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3).

I will remember that God’s promises will never fail. “Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56).

I will remember that God is always gracious. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

I will remember that God has not slammed the door on his compassion. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).

As we read this psalm, we can be filled with hope. God, who has worked so mightily in the past, stands ready to assist his people in the present. Looking back provides us with strength both for today and for the future. My prayer is that the saints of God will find comfort in remembering the mighty works that the sovereign Lord has accomplished in the past.

Travis Johnson
Travis Johnson
Travis Johnson is Lead Pastor of the Findlay Bible Methodist Church.