Self-sufficiency is applauded in our society. The world loves people who get things done on their own. They don’t ask for help, nor do they need any. They are strong and capable and proud of themselves for it. But Christians who have bought into this mindset are setting themselves up for a fall. The Bible tells us in John 15:5 that we can do “nothing” apart from Christ. It’s when we try that we find ourselves “apart from Christ” – a very dark place to be. This week, I found myself in that very darkness, but Psalm 107 was strong on my heart. It’s about God’s ability to change desperate situations when His people cry out to Him in prayer. It was only when I gave up trying for myself and gave it to God that He moved on my behalf.
Psalm 107 Begins with Gratitude
“O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever.”Psalm 107:1
Psalm 107 was believed to be written by King David. It starts with a reminder that God is good and worthy of our gratitude and praise. God’s mercy, compassion, and willingness to help us when we don’t deserve it is not something that will never change.
As is often the case with the Bible, the Psalm has both a literal and a deeper, more symbolic meaning. The four groups involved in the Psalm were all actual groups in exile facing desperate situations. Those of us in the modern world can find ourselves facing similar desperation today. Both then and now, it is often only when we realize that we can’t do anything to help ourselves that we cry fervently to God. In fact, He is often our last resort when all other efforts have failed. It is because of the Lord’s great mercy that He never stops coming to the rescue of those who have no hope apart from Him.
The Four Groups
The Psalm describes four groups of people. In each situation, we see the desperate need, the people’s cries to God, and His response.
Those who are lost and without basic needs being met.
The people who came out of Egypt into the wilderness were hungry and thirsty. When they cried out to God, He satisfied their needs and led them to the Promised Land.
People today can also feel like they are wandering and without provision, alone, their souls fainting within themselves. But Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and He promises to provide for all our needs (Philippians 4:19).
Those who are in darkness and chains of bondage.
The Israelites in captivity suffered hardship and heavy labor at the hands of their oppressors because of God’s judgment against their rebellion. When they cried out to God, He took them out of the darkness of the shadow of death. He burst their bands, broke the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron. He set them free.
People today who have not surrendered to God are also in bondage. They are held captive to sin. But Jesus came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18) and to deliver them from the power of darkness to the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13). Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Those who are sick and afflicted with diseases.
When the Israelites were gathered by God into the Promised Land, they came from different places. Some came from sickness and some pain and distress because of their own iniquity and God’s divine judgment. When they cried out to God, He sent His Word and delivered them and healed them.
People today also experience sickness and physical and mental distress, sometimes because of their own lifestyle choices that weaken the body and mind. But Jesus is the Great Physician (Luke 5:31), and with His stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
Those who are tossed in the waves of a great storm.
When the captives returned to the Promised Land from bondage, some of them traveled by sea. Psalm 107 speaks of the waves going up and down violently and the ship staggering like a man who is drunk. Helpless and shaken, the people’s “souls melted” and they were “at their wit’s end.” When they cried out to God, He calmed the sea and brought them safely to their destination.
People today also experience storms in life. We can feel like our whole world is crashing like waves against an immovable situation. We can feel the mental and emotional stress of turmoil. But Jesus came to bring peace and comfort (John 14:27). He can calm our storms with the same words He used on the literal waves in Mark 4:39, “Peace be still.”
Praise the Lord
Four times in the Psalm there is a desperate need, a cry for help, and an answer from God. And four times, the Psalmist repeats the same refrain of gratitude.
“Oh, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”Psalm 107:8, Psalm 107:15, Psalm 107:21, and Psalm 107:31
This reminds us that the appropriate response to God’s great goodness and mercy is our thankfulness and praise.
The God Who Changes Things
In line 33, the Psalm changes from specific scenarios to a general theme: God has the power to change things. The same God who can calm the sea has all power over the earth. He can take what is good and bring it to nothing when men choose wickedness. He can turn rivers into wilderness, water into dry ground, and fruitful land into barrenness. Likewise, He can do the exact opposite for those who choose to be faithful. He can turn the wilderness into standing water, dry ground into springs, and barrenness into a fruitful land. What is too hard for the God who can change the whole earth?
In the same way, He can change the land from good to bad, He can also bring people from high to low. He can take princes and bring them to nothing. Likewise, He can take the poor and oppressed and lift them high.
The Wisdom of Understanding
“Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.”Psalm 107:43
Psalm 107 ends in a similar way to Hosea 14:9. “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? Prudent, and he shall know them? For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall fall therein.” When we see the works of the Lord, we can understand His lovingkindness. He has mercy on those who cry out to Him and can easily change situations that are impossible for men.
For about two weeks, I was in a storm – on the inside. My own thoughts and emotions were out of control. Like a ship on the waves, I would come up just at a crest and then crash again. God had presented me with a scenario that felt like a punishment. He asked me to give up something in almost every form that I have always loved. (Imagine the thing that you would hope God would never ask you to give up – that was it.)
At the same time, He asked me to pick up a new ministry that involved giving up even more and is both physically and mentally uncomfortable four days per week. I obeyed without hesitation, but inside I was freaking out at my new reality. The enemy was all over my panic. I felt waves of despair and depression followed by self-pity and resentment. Phrases filled my mind, “I can’t stand it…I’m gonna die…I hate this!” I cried and cried through the stages of grief at the loss of life as I had known it.
I Tried to Fix Things on My Own
I realized that my reaction to a great, loving God who had my best interest at heart was pretty ridiculous. I tried hard to get ahold of myself, but I couldn’t seem to help it. Like a sailor grabbing the ropes and adjusting the sails, I would will myself to see the situation as God sees it. He obviously has a plan for good. But after just a few hours or even minutes, I would once again sink back down into despair.
The enemy and my flesh were screaming in stereo, and there was nowhere I could go to get away. I made a list of Bible verses to memorize to try to fight the enemy with the sword of the Word. I memorized Romans 15:13 to bring despair to hope, Philippians 4:4 to bring depression to joy, Proverbs 15:16 to bring self-pity to contentment, and Psalm 106:1 to bring resentment to appreciation. Again, this helped for a little while, but then another wave of anguish would wash over me until it felt almost like I couldn’t breathe.
The worst part was my separation from God in my heart. I would worship and say all the words about God being good. I knew in my mind that the Words are true, but I just didn’t “feel” them. The enemy’s lies swirled around me pointing to a barren, painful future of separation from the things I used to love and the dubious reward for my labor on earth. The God I have always run to in times of trouble was the “cause” of it, said the enemy. I knew my behavior was not acceptable, but I just couldn’t seem to control myself. I wanted to be close to God again, but my love felt battered and numb.
Finally, I Cried Out to the Lord
Near the end of the second week of this, I was at the end of myself. Attempt after attempt to fight the enemy and get ahold of my own chaotic feelings had failed. I was desperate to feel close to God again and finally admitted to Him that I absolutely could not do it on my own. I prayed, “Apart from You, I can do nothing. If you don’t change my situation, nothing will ever change.”
A few minutes later, I went to my prayer closet. I prayed and read the Bible, again trying to force myself to worship through my feelings. Just as I was about to go to bed, I had the thought to play the song “Forgiven” by Sanctus Real. The first strains started, and something HIT. Both of my hands went up in worship. Then a deep, racking sob was coming straight from my gut. “I’m forgiven. I don’t have to carry the weight of who I’ve been…’Cause I’m forgiven.” I can’t explain what happened except to say that something in me BROKE, releasing a flood of healing.
When I stood up, I was whole again. That’s the best way I can describe it. Where I had despair, I now had hope and a determination to do my best in the life God had chosen for me. Where I had loneliness and separation, I was now close to the God who spoke peace to my storm.
Psalm 107 Gives Hope to the Desperate
On our journey for God, we can do a lot for ourselves. We can fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), strive to enter at the strait gate (Luke 13:24), and make ourselves ready to meet the Lord (Revelation 19:7). But sometimes our situations can be out of our control. Whether we find ourselves lost, in bondage, sick, or in a storm, we can call on the Lord. He hears the cries of the desperate and is ready to save us and show Himself strong on our behalf. He is the God who can change the whole earth, and He can change people and situations too. Nothing is impossible for our great, merciful God.
A similar story of desperation can be found in the story of King Manasseh of Judah. Read Hope for Lost Loved Ones: God’s Mercy in Trials. Pray for your loved ones to have a “Manasseh moment.”
If you like to look closely at scripture, try Three Simple Instructions From God to Us. In it, we look at Hebrews 3-4. Or, try Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28 where we find the true treasure of God. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email inbox. You can find that at the upper right of your screen (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.