Thank you to Dinah P. for this exercise and worksheet.
The following synopsis is based on a series of classes and a workshop for the Kilcoy, Guyana Sister’s Class. After consideration of Psalm 66, each sister completed a personal exercise of written reflection about her journey of trial in the Truth by answering a series of questions and incorporating scriptures. These personal written testimonies were then shared in small group sessions and discussed. The process of introspection and the ability to share with a trusted group was both powerful and transformative. In the following article, we would like to share the outlines used to create these written reflections and the basis for this exercise.
There is a Psalm for every season of life and especially in times of trouble, we can find the much-needed comfort from the words therein. Psalm 66 is one such Psalm that encapsulates the emotional journey through trials, from the lows of desperation and suffering to the highs of jubilation and deliverance for the believer. Even more striking is that the progression of the Psalm provides a powerful tool and lesson on how we can endeavour to be resilient and persevere through trials. Trials can break us or shape us, so how can we develop a mindset that will help us (and others) learn and benefit from our trials and experiences? Yahweh uses suffering as a tool where he is working a great amount of good in our lives (though it may not seem to be good in our eyes or pleasant at the moment). A guided exercise in purposeful reflection and meditation about our trials can help us begin to reframe our mindset to one of thankfulness and praise to our Heavenly Father. When we can see and acknowledge the wondrous works of God working in our lives and are then able to share this with others then God is glorified and we are transformed.
Let us consider for a moment Psalm 66:
- Acknowledges the Power and Greatness of God (vs 1-4)
- An invitation to “Come and See…” what God has done (vs 5)
- Recounting of Trials and Deliverance and the affirmation that God is in control (vs 6-12)
- Reflection, Returning to give Praise (vs 13-15)
- An invitation to “Come and Hear” What God has done (vs 16)
- Praise and Thankfulness to God for His Mercy
There are two bookends which are urgent, enthusiastic invitations to come and see/hear what God has done:
Vs 5 “Come and See…”
Vs 16 “Come and Listen….”
We may be able to relate to this excitement to share news when there is a wedding or baby announcement, but, rarely do we feel such enthusiasm about sharing our trials. Between the bookends of V5 and V16 however, it is the overcoming of trials that the author wishes the reader to “come and see”. The goodness of God is not a life free from suffering or trial, in fact, Psalm 66 goes on highlighting the many trials and suffering that preceded the deliverance of when “He turned the sea into dry land“.
One cannot help but feel excited about the writer: is there anyone that will listen? Come and hear, let me tell you what God has done for me! How easy it is for all of us to look back on our suffering and focus on the difficulties, and never move past the pain. But the ability to look back and perceive the divine hand of God working in even the darkest hours is what helps transform us and make us resilient through the trial. It is truly an exercise of the mind to look back and celebrate the fact that yes, I was afflicted and tried but out of that came something positive. What a wondrous thing God is working in us! Come and see, says the Psalmist, come and let us share together in our experiences – let us cry together and let us celebrate together. It is approaching our past situations with purposeful consideration of the growth, learning, shaping and changing that took place during that time.
Of greater note and comfort, is that the Psalmist outlines that it is Yahweh who is in control of both the world and our individual lives. “He ruleth by his power forever; His eyes behold the nations”. Vs 10 – 12 ‘For thou, O God, hast proved us, thou hast tried us as silver is tried’, ‘thou hast laid affliction upon our loins’ ‘thou hast caused men to ride over our heads’ ‘we went through fire and through the water.’ It is a profession of not only the great deliverance that Yahweh brought but also recounting that suffering and pain was necessary in order for God’s strength and mercy to be demonstrated. He is in control, Vs 9 “Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved” vs 10 “but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place”.
What follows next is a moment of reflection and praise after an acknowledgement of what God had done. “ I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows, Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble” (vs 13-14). Who returned to the house of Yahweh to repay the vows that their lips uttered in the day of their distress? It is not a far stretch to see a beautiful parallel of Hannah in these verses. This is such an important progression, of coming out of a trial and returning back to give God the glory. In the account of the ten lepers that were healed “and one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God” (Luke 17:15). Yet out of ten, only ONE would return to give glory to God and Christ states “There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” The other nine, in failing to recognize what God had done for them, robbed Him of the glory and praise due to Him. We must have that reflective mindset to be aware of and acknowledge God working in our lives, and in doing so be able to turn back to contemplate and give glory to God. Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious (Psa 66:2)
Psalm 66 ends with praising God and acknowledging that He is a God that hears prayers “But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.”
Having briefly considered Psalm 66, how can we use the progression of this Psalm to help us become more resilient and be better prepared to persevere through trials? Our goal is to be able to acknowledge God’s greatness, recount our trials/deliverance, return to praise, and then invite others to come and hear.
While we may think that the accounts of time past do not directly relate to us, we can use the crossing of the Red Sea as mentioned in Psalm 66 as a good outline to help focus our thoughts and reflections in our own lives. In many ways, the progression of our trials parallels the crossing of the Red Sea. Many of us have encountered what we can term our own “Red Sea Moment”.
What was this Red Sea Moment?
- The people of Israel saw death behind them as the armies approached and death in front of them by way of the Red Sea. They were entangled in the land.
- They would have felt trapped, overwhelmed, alone, fearful for their own lives and the lives of their children, anxious, worried…etc.
- They couldn’t see a way out.
We too can have moments like this. Moments where we find ourselves in the depths of despair. It is in these moments that Yahweh is able to work and shape us and the command was given by Moses “ Fear not, Stand Still and see the salvation of Yahweh.” When we are in the midst of these situations we often cannot see the way out, and it is only in retrospect we can see how we were being shaped. God did indeed give a great deliverance to his people. It was after this in Exodus 15 that the song of Moses is sung as the people recounted and praised God for his greatness and glorified His name. We know the story of this deliverance would later reach the ears of Rahab who heard and believed.
These accounts give us Confidence in God. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Rom 15:4).
Likewise in our own lives, the ability to look back in hindsight and acknowledge that our Heavenly Father is working with us gives us confidence in our God, draws us closer to Him, and helps to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude to our God, through our troubles. Furthermore, by inviting others to “Come and hear” or “Come and See” what God has done for us, makes our God alive, active and real in our lives and helps comfort others as well in their trials (2 Cor 1:4).
I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. (Psa 40:9-10)
Just as Miriam, Hannah, Deborah, and Mary were able to look back and sing forth of the wonderful deliverance God had done for them, may we also be able to share with others about the greatness of our God. “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul”. Our ability to look back and see how God has worked with us in times past, and to be reflective of our growth through trials helps us to have confidence in God and assurance that no matter what other trials lay ahead He is with us and in control.
“Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”. (1 Cor 1:4)
WORKSHEET EXERCISE: O COME AND SEE WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR ME
(You can print out the notes below as a worksheet PDF here: Psalm 66 worksheet.)
In helping us to frame our thoughts for reflection there are some key points to help guide our thoughts. After identifying a situation we wish to reflect on, the key is to focus on the aspect of growth and that process of overcoming (even the most overwhelming circumstances). Though we may never know or hope to know on this side of the kingdom the WHY of a trial we most definitely feel the pain and suffering from the HOW of God shaping us. We can take comfort that God has revealed to us that there IS reason and meaning behind each trial, and it is important to acknowledge that so we can reflect on our transformation.
We will organize our thoughts into three main sections:
THE TRIAL: What was your Red Sea Moment?
- Think of a time where you felt: trapped, afraid, alone, lacked purpose, lacked motivation, fearful, weary, with no friends, lacked control, despair, overwhelmed, anxious, could not see a way out
- Something missing, no meaning to life
PROCESS OF DELIVERANCE: Crossing the Red Sea
- Describe the circumstance that allowed you to consider God as the solution.
- What events led to this change?
- Did this happen over a period of time?
- How was your faith challenged?
- What scriptures did you find helped you through this process?
- Did any individuals help support you through the trials?
- How did God make a way of escape?
- Was there a mindset you had to adapt to help you through?
RETURNING TO PRAISE GOD: “O Come and See What God has done for me”
- What lessons have you learned through your trial or troubles?
- How have you changed as a disciple of Christ?
- How are you able to support and comfort others in similar trials?
- How did God fulfill your needs?
- How have you found peace through your situation?
- How can you use this situation to profess what God has done for you?
- How has your perspective changed?
This exercise is often easiest to do in hindsight, considering a situation in the past that was especially challenging but one that made us grow. We might be in the midst of a very hard trial right now and find ourselves at the foot of the Red Sea and not able to see how we will overcome it. However, being able to reflect on how God has worked with us in times past can be helpful in trying to cultivate a mindset of thankfulness and trust in God in delivering us from the present trial.
Once you have written out and organized your thoughts, it is often helpful to share with someone or a trusted group of people you feel comfortable sharing with. Doing this as a small group activity can be very powerful in helping to build and encourage one another up. Being able to verbalize our difficulties can be key in helping us process our experiences.