Read Psalm 88
A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leannoth. A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
1 Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
2 May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
5 I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.
6 You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
7 Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
8 You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
9 my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.
God welcomes our grief. We can acknowledge His goodness while still mourning the broken world we live in and plead with the creator of this universe for mercy and clarity. In this psalm we see a raw cry of despair that lays out the author’s sorrow and sin in the form of a desperate prayer to a God that is bigger than our pain. Written by Heman the Ezrahite, who was known as a wise and talented man, this dark song is evidence that even the faithful experience doubt and angst.
In the midst of confusion, the writer acknowledges God’s power and goodness from the very first line. “Oh God of my salvation.” Before anything else, he recognizes God has already delivered him and then he can proceed to wrestle with his own agony. He attributes his troubles to the power and acts of God:
“You have put me in the lowest pit” (v. 6).
“Your wrath lies heavily on me” (v. 7).
“Your terrors have destroyed me” (v. 16).
By doing this, he acknowledges his own sin and wrestles with the righteous wrath and justice of God. He feels alone and weak, but his greatest despair is in verse 14 when he feels God has left him. “Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?” The greatest consequence of our own sin and sorrows is that God feels far from us in them. This psalm isn’t a plea to change his circumstance, but just to be near to the presence of God again.
Doubt doesn’t disqualify or distance us from God, but it’s an opportunity to lean in and seek His face above all else. Our prayer, along with the psalmist, is to be near to God and to know He is constant when our situation is not.
- What is your reaction when trials come? Is it anger, confusion, sorrow?
- Reflect on a time that God has felt far from you. What was happening? What was your response?
- What can you do to seek God in the midst of trials?
“There is nothing that so quickly makes the bell ring in heaven as the touch of a troubled hand.”
– F.B. Meyer
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