by Austen Hartke
“In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.
You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.”
-Psalm 77:2-12 (ESV)
We’ve all had nights when we toss and turn, trying to sleep but overcome by some anxiety, or some memory of something we did wrong, or maybe even by that overwhelming grief that visits from time to time. We try deep breathing. We try to count our blessings. We try praying. But somehow, this night, nothing works. We begin to wonder whether God’s really listening. We begin to wonder if God cares anymore.
This is where we find the author of Psalm 77—in bed, trying desperately to find some peace and get some sleep. They wish they could meditate, but they’re so upset, and the songs that used to comfort them aren’t working. How do we quiet our minds when we get caught in this spiral?
For the psalmist, the key comes in the form of borrowed faith. They can’t conjure up their own hope right now, so they decide to rely on the belief of the people who walked with God before them.
Sometimes when I’m feeling especially shaky in my faith I have to reach out to the stories of people in the Bible who experienced God first-hand, and in the flesh. What must it have felt like to feel the sand under your feet as you walked out of Egypt? What must it have smelled like to be in the room where perfume was being poured over Jesus’ feet? When we get stuck in our own thought spirals it can be helpful to draw on the strength of our spiritual ancestors, and even on the stories we remember in our own lives. When do you remember feeling God’s presence most strongly? When was the last time you wondered if maybe that weird coincidence was God moving in your life? It’s okay to not be sure—the psalmist wasn’t sure when they asked all those questions about whether God was really still listening. God’s not asking us to be sure—God’s just asking us to keep reaching out. To keep listening. To keep telling those stories.
For more thoughts on Psalm 27, check out the Transgender & Christian video, “Borrowing Faith!” (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-jzz7Cs5T8&list=PLwWfCs7vnwdC1wbIAmH3_kIm0fE7oN9tE&index=27)
About The Author
Austen Hartke is the creator of the YouTube series “Transgender and Christian,” which seeks to understand, interpret, and share parts of the Bible that relate to gender identity and the lives of transgender individuals. Austen is a graduate of Luther Seminary’s Master of Arts program in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible Studies, and is the winner of the 2014 John Milton Prize in Old Testament Writing from the same institution. He has spoken at conferences all over the country, including The Reformation Project Conference in Atlanta, the Gay Christian Network Conferences in Houston and in Pittsburg, and the 2016 Philadelphia Transgender Health Conference. Currently Austen lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he is working on a collection of biblical and modern narratives from gender-non-conforming people of faith, to be published with Westminster John Knox Press in Spring of 2018. As a transgender person of faith, his greatest passion is helping other trans and gender-non-conforming people see themselves in scripture.