When facing problems that won’t leave, God is still near. An otherwise unknown author named Asaph wrote a Psalm reflecting the darkness that sometimes afflicts the human heart. He opens his poem by writing,
I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. (Psalm 77:1-4)
What exactly is troubling Asaph? He doesn’t say. The value for the reader is the universal applicability of his feelings. Whether we’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, the breakup of a relationship, financial setbacks or illness, the words express the misery of the human heart in turmoil. Asaph wants God to make the pain go away; he wants to experience peace, calmness, and comfort. But despite all his tears, all his pleading, comfort never comes. God does not break through the clouds. Instead, the gloom remains.
Devastated now by both his problems and the refusal of God to respond to him in his hour of need, he casts about fitfully, wondering what he can possibly do.
Then it comes to him: he will remember God’s faithfulness in times past. He will recall the character and actions of God in other situations, other moments, and comfort himself with the notion that, even though his heart is broken with no healing in sight, he will choose to believe that God is there and that God has not abandoned him, regardless of how it looks just now. If God could rescue the Israelites from Egypt, bringing them through what seemed the insurmountable barrier of the Red Sea, then God will surely see Asaph through his current crisis.
Near the end of his poem Asaph comments that God led the Israelites through the sea, “though your footprints were not seen.” Asaph can’t see God, but then neither could the Israelites. Not seeing God at work does not mean that God isn’t.