This week I welcome guest blogger, Clint Watkins, as he shares with us how his personal experience of loss and pain led him to learn how to seize hope through lament. If you want to learn more about Clint, please visit his website.
In Psalm 77, verses 1-15, Asaph has taught us that when we lament, we weep, wrestle and wonder. Now in verses 16-20, Asaph continues reflecting on God’s power, but gets a little more descriptive in his pondering. This is a dramatic retelling of when Israel passed through the Red Sea. Look at all the creation language in verses 16-19.
Asaph is not just highlighting God’s power, he’s highlighting God’s redemptive power. What’s the difference? These images—the waters, clouds, rain, thunder, lightning, the sea—these are all images of chaos. People during Asaph’s time had no real defense against the storms of nature. Though we may have better protection these days, natural disasters still show us how powerless we truly are. It’s like the tornadoes that have been ripping through our country over the past week. Nature’s chaos can only be overpowered by the God who created it.
But in Psalm 77, God is not just overpowering the chaos. He’s using the chaos for his redemptive purposes. It’s cosmic Judo. Judo is a form of martial arts where you use your enemies’ strength against them. God uses the chaos to rescue Israel.
This is God’s storyline all throughout Scripture:
Genesis: what you intended for evil, God intended for good.
Exodus: the very waters that could have killed Israel was their path to salvation.
The Cross: the instrument of death becomes the vehicle for resurrection.
God’s redemptive purposes turn evil and chaos upside down.
As Asaph reflects on God’s redemptive power, the energy of his prayer builds. The waters are writhing, the clouds are swirling, lightning is flashing—it’s as if Asaph is getting louder and louder as prays. But there’s a surprising end to his prayer. The final verse in Psalm 77, verse 20, has been called an anticlimax. Almost a disappointing end. Like a joke with a bad punchline. Really, Asaph? You’re just gonna stop? I like to picture Asaph reflecting on his bed. He’s struggling to fall asleep. It’s as if he passes out while reflecting on God’s redemption. His prayer just stops. But this is no accident. He lingers here purposefully. The Psalm ends with the Israelites in the wilderness. Asaph, too, is still in the wilderness. His situation hasn’t resolved. His questions haven’t been answered.
But he knows that this is not unfamiliar territory for God and his people. God has brought his people through the wilderness before, and Asaph wants us to feel the anticipation that the Lord might do it again.
This is what faith can look like in the wilderness. You’re struggling. You’re wrestling with God. You know he’s working redemptively—but you can’t see it. You’re still wondering what he’s doing. And on this side of eternity, you may never know why he’s allowing this to happen. So you simply wait. Wait for God to do something, to show up, to save.
This is how the Bible as a whole ends. Revelation paints this future hope of God erasing all tears and pain—but it ends in the wilderness. “Come, Lord Jesus!” We revel in redemption, we anticipate Christ’s return, but we wait.
There’s an enormous amount of pressure to “find the silver lining” in the storm. It can feel unfaithful if you haven’t found the spiritual purpose for your suffering. Now, it’s not wrong to find purpose in your pain—I know it can be really helpful for people to point to particular ways that their suffering led them to do something. But Scripture also makes room for stories that linger until Christ returns.
If your suffering hasn’t ended, or you don’t have specific reasons for your pain or haven’t found the silver lining, you can still be a person of profound faith and powerful hope. We linger in redemption as we wait for Christ’s return.
Be encouraged. Lament takes time. This isn’t a once and done process. It’s not something that happens in a single conversation with God. Asaph had to process this, wrestle with the Lord, then he composed this prayer and wrote it down, worked out the poetry, edited it, finished it. Don’t rush this process. It’s okay to have seasons of wrestling with the Lord. Your sorrow is not the end of the story, but you also don’t need to rush the plotline. And working through your sorrow honestly will move you to a place of rugged hope.