READ: Psalm 88
THINK: Yesterday I watched a movie about the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. And then I read the transcript of the President’s speech about the prospect of war Syria. And a couple articles linked to the end of that transcript about the number of women and children who have been killed by drone strikes in the last few years. And I checked Twitter and found some tweets from students in my ministry whom I love that expressed feelings of loneliness, isolation, and brokenness. And I also got a piece of personal bad news about a close friend. And I am sitting here typing this feeling overwhelmed by the brokenness of the world.
Psalm 88 is the dark corner of the Psalter. It stands alone in its hopelessness. The pattern of the Psalms – even the most pained and broken ones – is always to end with hope and an expression of confidence in God’s ability to set things right. Always. But Psalm 88 stands out because it includes no such statement. Instead of concluding, “My God is mighty to save” it finishes with “Darkness is my closest friend.”
Darkness is my closest friend. Seems almost heretical doesn’t it? Seems like Hemen the Ezrahite, the author of Psalm 88, probably didn’t deserve his poem in the Bible. But it’s there. And if we dig into the Bible we find that Hemen wasn’t the only person in there who was beaten down and disappointed with God. Job and Moses both cried out to God in anger and frustration, prophets like Jonah and Jeremiah were so beaten down that wished for death, Elijah, Habakkuk, and many unnamed writers of the Psalms joined them in this hopeless chorus.
And though it seems strange for this incredible book about who God is to include these detailed accounts and outpourings of the soul regarding spiritual failure, the fact that they’re present demonstrates something important: the fact that sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. Marriage counselors tell that to couples in crisis all the time. And those are not empty words. Until we really dig down and express with complete honesty the things which we’re feeling we can’t heal properly. Misunderstanding has to be exposed before understanding can flourish.
One of the greatest things about the Psalms, and this Psalm in particular, is that they aren’t some sort of theological apologetic that attempts to rationalize anger or give an abstract piece of advice about pain or explain away the problem of suffering. Instead, they are cries of the heart which vividly express emotions, passionately describe feelings, and loudly cry out in anguish. And that’s real. That’s you and me. We hurt sometimes. And sometimes we can find our own voices in these Psalms.
The Psalms present a mosaic of spiritual therapy in process. Doubt, paranoia, giddiness, delight, hatred, joy, praise, vengefulness, betrayal – they’re all found in the psalms. From them I learn to bring to God whatever I feel about Him. I need not paper over my failures. It’s far better to bring my weaknesses to Him, who alone has the power to heal. The truth is that an honest talk with God is the first step in finding hope in our hopelessness, healing in our brokenness, and peace in our frustration.
PRAY: Maybe you’re going through something difficult today and you feel broken. Maybe you’ve been listening to the news and taking an honest look at the shattered and violent world we live in and you feel overwhelmed. Maybe today was the best day of your life. Wherever you fall along that spectrum, bring it to God honestly today. He isn’t intimidated by your true feelings. Let him know. Thank him for his presence and for the fact that he listens. Trust him to heal.