The psalms in my Bible (I use the old King James Version of the Bible) are introduced with a superscription—a brief preview describing the contents of the psalm. The heading above Psalm 77 reads, “The psalmist sheweth what fierce combat he had with diffidence.”
Diffidence? I had to look it up in the dictionary. I discovered that diffidence is “lack of confidence, mistrust, doubt.” And… I can relate. That superscription could as easily read, “Allan sheweth what fierce combat he hath with diffidence.” It is truly very difficult at times. At times I could put my own signature under the psalm as something I had written myself.
I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and He gave ear unto me.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
I go through times like this. My heart is sore with unanswered prayer; I am troubled, and refuse to be comforted by anything this world has to offer. I remember God… but it troubles me to remember. For, where is my God? I complain, I am overwhelmed.
I have worried at times that my complaining is displeasing to God… except that I actually find this same kind of troubled honesty in the psalms God Himself inspired—a man pouring out his honest complaint before his God, a man emptying out his troubled heart into the heart of his God. So, if God Himself has inspired this kind of psalm, it can’t be true that He is displeased with such a cry.
…And then all these questions the psalmist asks. They too are my own.
I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart, and my spirit made diligent search.
Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favourable no more? Is His mercy clean gone forever? Doth His promise fail for evermore?
Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah.
And I said, This is my infirmity (or, my anguish): but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High (from Psalm 77).
This then was the cry of the psalmist’s heart: where are the years of the right hand of the Most High? (The right hand always signifying God’s unequalled power– the right hand of power.)
It is my own cry. Where is Your Right Hand, O Lord, with which at one time You redeemed your people, going so far as to part the very waters of the impossible sea to make a way of them? But now? Your work has failed, Your people languish. You have forgotten us, Lord—forgotten the work of Your own hands. You have forgotten Your promise—that we Your people should be a blessing to the nations. Instead we are a burden to the nations. They mock us, laugh at us. Where is our Holy and our beautiful House where our fathers praised You? It is burned up with fire, and all our pleasant things are laid waste. You started a work… You raised up a people from the Valley of Dry Bones… but did You start to put flesh and sinew on our bones only to leave us to languish unfinished? Why do you start a work and not finish it, Lord? We know we’re not dead in trespasses and sins anymore. But we’re not really alive, either—not with the life that You promised when You said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Where is this abundant life, Lord? Where is the fountain You promised when You told the woman at the well of Samaria that the water You would give would become a fountain leaping up unto eternal life? But Lord our wells are dry! We live in a dry and thirsty land where no water is.
…This is the cry of my heart. And I know it is the cry of many others these days.
I recall from The Pilgrim’s Progress that Christian with his companion Hopeful on their journey to the Heavenly City ended up in the territory of Giant Despair, who locked them up in the dungeon of Doubting Castle. Giant Despair had a wife named Diffidence. She encouraged her husband Despair to beat the captive pilgrims mercilessly day after day… even counseling him to advise them to do away with themselves since it was certain they would never see the light of day outside the thick walls of that castle ever again.
Until suddenly Christian remembers he actually has in his pocket a key out of that dark place—a key called Promise.
So with this psalmist. He has his fierce battle with diffidence. But then he turns the key of promise in the lock.
Thou art the God that doeth wonders: Thou hast declared Thy strength among the people.
Thou hast with Thine arm redeemed Thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.
The waters saw Thee, O God, the waters saw Thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.
The clouds poured out water, the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows (lightnings) also went abroad.
The voice of Thy thunder (rolled) in the heaven; the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.
And so with me. I have my own fierce battle with diffidence. But then I rally. I embrace these words the psalmist wrote. For they are prophetic. A great eternal Storm is about to break. The God of wonders will reveal Himself in the midst of it. He will come forth in great power—with words like thunder and lightning. In the midst of the mighty storm He will redeem His people with a stunning display of sovereign power and glory.
And make a way for us. Where? Right through that impossible sea.
Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.
Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Right in the midst of overwhelming destruction—a destruction that destroys all His enemies—The Shepherd of Israel leads His people like a flock by the hand of a priestly leadership.
That’s a promise—a prophetic promise. Let me complete now that superscription above Psalm 77 I mentioned at the start. For, there’s more to it. “The psalmist sheweth what fierce combat he had with diffidence. The victory which he had.”
What would we do without those last few words? How did the psalmist get the victory over diffidence? With that same key of promise Christian had in Doubting Castle.
I’m so thankful to discover I have the same key. What begins in diffidence becomes my cry of intercession– and I know my God will answer.