Psalm 44 was written during the Babylonian Exile, at a time of despair for the Jews, but hope that God would rescue them.
Verse 11 tells us that the Jews have been defeated and scattered among the heathens, which can only be a reference to the Exile:
44:11:Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen.
God is held responsible for everything that happens to the Jews, so it must be that they are being punished, rather than that the Babylonians were simply able to defeat them. This is why verse 11 says God has "given us like sheep."
Verses 12-13,22 tell of the despair of the Jews, becoming mere property for their Babylonian masters and feeling humiliated in the sight of their neighbours:
44:12-13 Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price. Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us.
44:2 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
The author wonders why God has not come to their aid and begs him to do so:
44:23-26: Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth. Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake.