Psalm 77


This is the agonizing prayer of a person in distress (vs.2).  While her trouble is not named, there is a feeling of being trapped with no way out.   The verbal root (of word translated ‘trouble) means to be ‘cramped, hampered, constricted.’  Our psalmist feels a deep sense of abandonment. 

Most of us in distress become very self-centred, which is reflected in the ‘I’ and ‘my’ in the psalm (26 times).  This pain, as is all pain, individual but the palmist recognizes that there is a ‘Thou’ beside her, who hears her, thus she cries out in the hope that God will hear.     Yet no matter how fervent or persistent her prayer, the psalmist finds no comfort.  Nights are the worst with insomnia and sighings too deep for words (v.4).        

This is not a new experience for the people of God:

  • Israel in slavery crying out to God (Exodus 2.23-25).
  • Israel in exile in Babylon, weeping for their homeland by the rivers of Babylon Psalm 137).
  • Jesus later experiences this abandonment of God when he cries from the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ (Mark 15.34).

So let us entertain the claim—pastorally, theologically, historically—that Israel in exile was indeed God-abandoned (and that Jesus on the cross reiterated and replicated the abandonment of Israel). This claim is pastorally sensitive for the times in which we live. 

  • It recognizes honestly and takes seriously the lived reality of those who died without the presence of loved ones during the worst days of the pandemic.
  • Those who are left economically bereft.
  • Those who are mandated to continue to work in stressful or unsafe environments.

The psalmist in her present distress remembers the great deeds of God in the past as well as their own times of personal deliverance and is able to take comfort and hope for the future.  The verbs ‘remember,’ ‘meditate,’ ‘consider,’ ‘muse,’ and ‘seek’ occur ten times between vs. 2-12. 

‘I have considered the days of old: and the years that are past.

I call to remembrance my song: and in the night I commune with

mine own heart, and search out my spirits’  (vs.5-6).

The summons of faith amid abandonment is that we should in such circumstances maintain, with intentional resolve, faithful practices and disciplines that belong to our baptism. ‘There is an antidote to despair in the regular practices of the disciplines of faith,‘  writes Walter Brueggemann.  ‘It does not seem a far stretch to imagine that these practices that fend off despair include at least the following’:


In seasons of abandonment people of faith tell sustaining stories.   Israel told big stories of escape from Pharaoh and his army (Exodus 15); of a slave boy becoming Prime Minister of Egypt (Genesis 41); of Elisha feeding a hungry, marauding army (2 Kings 4), and many others.  Such stories help people of faith to remember that death does not have the last word.


 In seasons of abandonment people of faith sing defiant songsIsrael sang, even in the midst of trouble.  Like the Mennonites singing ‘In the rifted rock,’ or 20th century American civil rights marchers singing ‘We shall overcome.’  Such singing stays tuned to the wonderful, transformative, and compassionate mercy of God.


In seasons of abandonment people of faith pray without ceasing.

The prayers of Israel, along with the songs and stories of Israel, focus relentlessly on the wonder of God. The prayers of Israel are prayers of praise and thanks, voicing God as having faithful powerful agency in the world.

19 Your way went straight through the sea;
    your pathways went right through the mighty waters.
        But your footprints left no trace!
20 You led your people like sheep
    under the care of Moses and Aaron.

The English poet, Malcolm Guite, has written a powerful poetic meditation of abandonment and remembering. 

As heaven’s mercy falls like gentle rain.

I lift my face and let it wash me clean.

In all my times of trouble, darkness, pain,


I cry to him. I come to him and lean

Again into the comfort of his grace

And I remember all that he has been



To me in all my years of life. I trace

Once more the story of his love:

He sought me even when I turned my face

Away from him, descended from above

And found me in my hiding place. His might

Broke up my clouds of darkness, and he strove


Against the waves of chaos, in the night

Of my affliction, when he recued me

And led me out of darkness into light.