Oscar Wilde once said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Psalm 77 reminds me a lot of those words, and spoke to my heart and my life circumstances the other morning.

The Psalmist (Asaph in this case) begins by describing his situation. I’ll break it down for you quickly with some bullet points:

  • He’s crying out to God and searching for Him.
  • He’s praying all night long, hands high to da sky. He doesn’t feel comforted.
  • He thinks of God and moans — overwhelmed with longing for God’s help.
  • He says that the Lord isn’t even letting him sleep — he feels too distressed to pray.
  • He remembers happier times and thinks about how different his present circumstances are.
  • He concludes that this is his fate — God has completely turned against him.

Ever felt this way, friend?

We’ve only made it to verse 10!

But then, there’s a turning point.

And it goes a little something like this:

“But then I recall all you have done, O LORD; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.”

As this new leaf turns over, Asaph goes on to say that those deeds are constantly in his thoughts — he can’t stop thinking about God’s mighty works.

He concludes that God’s ways are holy. He remembers it — I feel like I can sense his face lighting up: “You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.”

And then, he clings to a specific example — “By your strong arm, you redeemed your people…When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled! The sea quaked to its very depths. The clouds poured down rain; the thunder rumbled in the sky…Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters–a pathway no one knew was there!” {v. 17a & 19, emphasis added}

The conclusion of the matter is found in these simple words: “You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep, with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.” {v.20}

It’s as if Asaph decided around verse 11 to get up and start preaching to himself.


He didn’t even need to remember something God had specifically done for him, personally, he just began to remember God’s powerful nature, His goodness to the people He loves and has chosen. And what a word this is — God makes a path in places where no one even knew a path was possible!

We might feel like we’ve got the Egyptian army, horses and chariots racing behind us to catch us, and a raging sea in front of us — a choice between fighting people who are stronger and more equipped and drowning — but God. But God. But God. He can make a path where one doesn’t yet exist. He has a plan, He has a saving solution in mind that we might not even fathom!

And Asaph’s conclusion is beautiful — the powerful, strong and mighty God who delivered the Israelites with rumbling thunder, flashes of lightning and earth-quaking, sea-parting power — He is the God who gently leads His people, like a Shepherd with a sweet little flock of fluffy sheep. The Shepherd gently and carefully leads those sheep to green pastures and still waters where their soul will be restored. Strong and loving — what an amazing God.

Now does He love you or me less? Your answer to that question matters. It informs your belief (or unbelief) and effects what becomes possible in your life. {As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he…}

Instead of getting discouraged when we feel like God is doing something for others He isn’t doing for us, we should get encouraged because He doesn’t love anyone more than He loves you. Rejoice with those who rejoice — remembering that God delivers, and in His perfect timing, you will be delivered, too.

II Peter 3:9 says this:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Ponder this with me for a second. What if your suffering is something God can use to bring others to repentance? What if the trials I’m facing right now are the catalyst for me to write these words, which will encourage someone else to press in to God with faith? God will keep His promise to me. And by His grace, He will also use these trials — and I have the privilege of participating in His glory.

Does that mystery blow your mind?

Yes, He says if you call to Him, He’ll answer. That if you wholeheartedly seek Him you’ll find Him.

But remember the verse before that one up there (II Pet. 3:8) — that a day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. We don’t understand His timing. The hows and whys and whens are as much of a mystery as the manna fed to the Israelites in the wilderness. Manna literally means “What is it?” and (thank you Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts for helping me understand this) God fed them mystery for forty years.

God’s people were nourished and full with mystery.

Could we be a people who would be willing to receive the mystery? To even appreciate the mystery — perhaps come to love the mystery of God? The more I’ve thanked Him for the mystery the more I think I’ve come to understand. These trials are producing good fruit — but it took a willingness to receive them as gifts to see that.

We are not there yet, friend. Compared to the glory of heaven yet to come, this world is the gutter. But even here, in the middle of the days when it truly feels like a gutter — all of us have a choice to look up at the stars.