1st July 2013

Letter from the Pastor

‘and I said, This is my infirmity’

Psalm 77v10

How blessed we are to have the book of Psalms – with its prayers and cries covering the entire range of human experience and feeling! Psalm 77 is one of those touching psalms in which we behold the inspired writer pouring out his soul unto the Lord. We see this right from the opening line: ‘I cried unto God with my voice’ and his focus in these opening verses is upon the difficulty and sorrow he faces, speaking of ‘the day of my trouble’ and ‘my spirit was overwhelmed.’
But then, in verse 7, the psalmist begins to ask some serious questions – even questions of God – six in total, spanning 3 verses. Questions, we can see from verse 6, which clearly he has been wrestling with and have troubled him: ‘Will the Lord cast off for ever?’ ‘Doth His promise fail for evermore?’ ‘Hath God forgotten to be gracious?’ – questions which seem to evidence deep doubts he has as he surveys his troubles, even deep doubts about God, His nature and His actions. Questions which could be understood as bordering on the sinful … teetering on the edge even of blasphemy: but then come the words of our text – in v.10: in which he seems to suddenly check himself. No, the reason for my troubles I cannot lay at the feet of God. I shall not accuse Him in such a way. ‘THIS is MY infirmity’, he asserts. I may not understand what is happening to me; neither do I understand why this is so … but one thing I do grasp is that I cannot blame God … the fault, must lie with me.
And there is great safety in holding such a line. For there are times and even prolonged seasons in the Christian life in which, we, going through the valleys of acute difficulty and trial, find similar questions rising in our souls. These are often exacerbated by the evil, insinuating whispers of the enemy, and at times, even as here, they come rolling out in succession – tumbling out one upon another – bombarding our souls with doubts and suspicions concerning God, His nature, His dealings in bringing us to such a place, and His leaving us there so long. Questions, which cast aspersions upon His goodness, or His wisdom – His love and grace – even as those filling the psalmist’s mind; ‘Will He be favourable no more?’, ‘Is His mercy clean gone for ever?’, ‘Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?’
And such troubling questions are in no way limited to our personal trials and hardships, but surely as we consider the local church, indeed The Church, we can be brought into similar straits – in which it appears to the faithless eye that God has abandoned us, He has treated us as our sins deserve, He is leaving us to the will and wickedness of our foes, to be crushed and wiped out. And thus those same questions, asked by the psalmist regarding the Lord and His ways, start to bubble up and rise up to trouble the church and her members.
Surely we can identify with this in these days, when the arm of the wicked seems to ever wax stronger and more stridently against the church, against the Bible, against the Lord Himself. But, despite these things being so, it appears as if heaven does not see, or does see and is not choosing to act and raise up the standard of truth – and the decline seems terminal and rapid. And as we read through the 6 questions of this Psalm, how many of us do so finding a resonance of such in our hearts for these days? Now, I do not believe that asking such questions, if done carefully and reverently, is necessarily sinful in itself, but as we ask such, whether it be concerning our individual valleys or those of the church in our day and age, ever on the tip of our tongue, representing the firm conclusion of our souls, must be the statement of the psalmist that follows – even the words of our text, ‘and I said, This is my infirmity’
But are we then to just leave it at that – with this correct assessment of the situation that we must be the cause of this trouble, not the Lord? Well, this Psalm helps us with this question also, for the Psalm does not end with this realisation and admission, but rather goes on – on in fact for another ten verses. And in these we have a practice that is greatly strengthening and helpful for the church and her individual members – that of the bringing to mind and recounting of God’s mighty blessings of the past. Thus we see the psalmist writing, ‘I will remember the years of the right hand of the most high … I will remember Thy wonders of old … I will meditate also of all Thy works, and talk of Thy doings’ – the Lord’s deliverance at the Red Sea crossing being that which he recalls on this particular occasion.
And thus, as we consider our own trials and hardships, along with the difficulties we, like all other Bible churches, face, not to mention those that Zion as a whole must wrestle with in this days, in the recollection of ‘the days of the right hand of the Lord’ we shall find a tonic to lift and strengthen our souls. As we read of the Lord’s wonderful deeds of power throughout the pages of the Old Testament history – the stories of those great worthies of the Faith – what a stimulant and encouragement we receive. As we pore over the four Gospel accounts and scan the blessed acts and gracious words of our Lord Jesus Christ and then continue into Acts, to read of the early revival days of the infant New Testament church – similarly, power and blessing start to flow and seep into and impart life to our drooping spirits. But then, also, a great tool in this practice, will ever be the accounts Church History has left us of the gracious outpourings of the Spirit in Reformation and Revival days gone by. Reading such records, Biblical and historical, shall soon see the eye of faith burning bright once more and the believers’ spirit enlivened and hope-filled.
Thus we see within the 20 verses of this 77th Psalm the writer going from being deeply troubled and questioning God, to being lifted and encouraged once again, and acknowledging His greatness. His route is through this wise and godly road of recognising the goodness of God cannot ever be in question and then this recollection of His power – lovingly engaged for His people.

Pastor Paul Ackerley