Psalm 77 is a compelling example of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in action. C.B.T. shows the client how their underlying thoughts impact their emotions, and ultimately their behaviors. Identifying and changing negative thought patterns, in turn have positive influences on both the behaviors and emotions. This Psalm reveals someone who is struggling with negative thoughts and then makes a switch. At verse 10, halfway thorough the 20 verses, there is a definite change of thought.
In the earlier verses “the client” is described as praying (v. 1) and yet they’re admitting, “my soul refused to be comforted.” Haven’t you had that experience of pouring out your heart to God, telling Him all about it, but without the surrender necessary to receive what He is offering you? This person is complaining and overwhelmed (vs. 3). They describe themselves as dealing with physical ailments (vs. 2), including sleeplessness, and soreness of spirit causing inability to speak (vs. 4). This person is thinking on the past (vs. 5) and can only come up with questions about God’s goodness toward himself (vs. 7-9).
Now the switch comes. Verse 10, “And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” The person is expressing a choice to admit the truth of their present reality, and yet look to, and believe the goodness of God in the past. It is a conscious choice of the will. “I will remember…”
Within the verses that follow to complete Psalm 77 there is a change of thoughts toward praising God. “The client” has changed focus of his thoughts from self as the subject to God as the subject. By focusing on praising God as the subject of the thought life, a positive outlook occurs.
Five subjects are identified as categories to be meditated on, which form the basis of never-ending praise that are the new basis for “this client’s” thought patterns.
In the remaining verses of the chapter, are outlined five ways to praise:
1. Focus on God as Savior – vs. 13 alludes to this when it says, “Thy way, O God is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?” The plan of salvation is recorded in the model of the sanctuary service.
Here are some resources for further contemplation: http://amazingdiscoveries.org/S-deception_Moses_sanctuary_Old_Testament https://www.amazingfacts.org/news-and-features/inside-report/magazine/id/10734/t/secrets-of-the-sanctuary
2. Focus on God through the testimonies of others – vs. 14 declares, “Thou art the God that deoest wonders: thou hast declared Thy strength among the people.” Look for good news. Listen to the stories of others when they tell of how God has worked in their lives.
Though not blatantly revealing God’s hand, here some resources for some good news that will uplift and inspire:
3. Focus on God by looking to His past actions on behalf of others – In verse 15 we are called to reflect upon God’s hand in redeeming His people, specifically Jacob and Joseph. This is a plea to look to God’s actions in the interpersonal relationships of those in the past. The text brings to mind the troubles of Jacob both with Laban, his manipulative father-in-law, and with Esau, his estranged, and embittered brother. Joseph seems to have had more than his share of troubles. He found himself in a great variety of unpleasant situations from falsely accused to slavery, and imprisonment. And yet the lives of both of these men reveal that God was at hand and worked mightily on their behalves. Read about people who have exhibited godly character in the face of trying circumstances. Look to see God’s strong arm.
4. Focus on God through a study of nature – Psalm 77:16-19 tell of God as Creator, insinuating that nature shows God’s ways. We can learn about God through nature. The more we learn of the natural world, the more we praise God as a wonderful Creator. Think also of God’s control of nature on behalf of His people. In the past there was the Red Sea Crossing, the Jordan River Crossing, and the Great Flood, just to name a few water related miracles as the verses imply. In my local area I have heard testimony of a forest fire jumping over a person’s property to continue raging on the other side, causing no damage to them. Past or present, nature reveals that we have much to praise God for.
5. Focus on God by considering His leadership – verse 20 says, “Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” Considering the scope of history, both spiritually and politically, from the ancient past to the present, we can think with praise to God for the ways He had lead His people by the hand of human leaders.
Who can you think of that inspired others to goodness by how they conducted themselves? Who stood up for right, even when unpopular? Who understood something about God that others had neglected, and lead others to consider this aspect as well? Learn about these godly leaders and how God used them to inspire others in their time and beyond. Praise God for His direction in their lives and for His use of their influence.
“The client” of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (from Psalm 77) has effectively changed his outlook by the use of these five categories of praise. As we see the switch in his thinking we can almost sense his positive emotions, and assume that this will in turn also lead to positive behavioral changes. It worked for him and it can work for you too. Use these 5 categories to maintain a God-centered thought life. Refuse to allow self to be the focus.