In the centuries since the invention of the printing press, Christians everywhere have perfected the fine art of writing in their Bibles.
Some readers of Scripture create complex systems involving symbols or different colors of highlighter markers. Others cram notes, observations and questions into the margins.
I write in my Bible, though my notations are pretty simple. A couple of years ago, for example, I labeled the psalms in order to keep track of them. I came upon the seventy-seventh psalm a few days ago. Its label intrigued me.
For when the world seems dark
The psalm begins: 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.
Well, that’s cheerful.
Moving forward a few verses: Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
What a bright, happy psalm this is turning out to be.
As I read the first few verses, I was wondered why I’d given Psalm 77 a title like For when the world seems dark. When the world seems dark, I want it to seem lighter—not more depressing!
Then the theme of the psalm takes an abrupt turn: I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
The psalmist goes on to describe one of God’s great miracles, and ends with these words: You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Some great Christian thinker (I don’t remember which) once wrote, “Do not forget in the darkness what you have learned in the light.”
The psalmist didn’t forget. When God seemed far away, he paused to remember two things: the great deeds God had done, and the great love God had shown.
Psalm 77 came at a good time. At the moment, I’m under some emotional strain. Leaving loved ones, adjusting to a new place, facing an uncertain future—these things are hard. It’s easy to lose perspective and become lost in depression, anxiety or fear.
It’s at times like these that I must stop and remind myself of two things: the great deeds God has done for me, and the great love he’s shown toward me.
I remember those scholarships that allowed me to graduate from Bethel College. I remember how, when I was depressed during my third semester, I enjoyed the much-needed blessing of a long, solitary Thanksgiving break spent writing, watching Disney movies and playing Final Fantasy VII. I remember the glorious evenings spent watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and drinking tea with my friends from college. I remember all those mornings my old man brought me coffee in bed, and all those times my mum told me, “You’re a treasure.”
I remember how often God has made things right.
When the world seems dark, remember what you’ve learned in the light.