”Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
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.
You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;Psalm 88
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.
The Book of Psalms
- The Psalms are a hymn book that has stood the test of time for millennia and have been a resource to turn to in time of trouble.
- That is particularly true of the Psalms of lament, of which Psalm 88 is one, which have a particular place in our Christian vocabulary.
- It is great to know that even in the darkest moments of our lives, God has provided us with a liturgical resource to express the darkest experiences of life.
When we Run out of Words
- It is when we experience times of disorientation or dislocation in life (traumatic life experiences/ death/major moves) that we frequently reach the extremities of what language can convey.
- The dark days of our life more often than not come upon us unexpectedly and we can’t be expected to have a well-formed vocabulary for expressing how it feels. It is in those times that it can be helpful to turn to the Psalms as a linguistic resource for when we reach the limits of our own language.
- Psalm 88 is a particular Psalm of lament where, unlike other Psalms, there is no resolution or easy answers.
- Psalm 88 is a Psalm of anger and anguish, giving us a vocabulary to express our darkest emotions but it can be healing to know that God Himself has given us these words to express these emotions in our prayers to Him.
The language of lament is one that God not only understands but offers to us to help us in the worst moments of our lives.
- Lament is an important feature of a faith that at its core is about relationship – relationship with God.
- God desires to be in relationship with his people; in fact, the whole story of the bible, is about him relentlessly pursuing us and our various responses to Him.
- It is often the case in a relationship that one party needs to give voice to discontent – without the language of lament, the danger is that we simply become yes men and women, the language of lament helps to transport us to a new reorientation from a state of disorientation.
A Glimmer of Hope
- And yet, there is a glimmer of hope in this passage in verse 1 we read: ‘O Lord, God of my salvation’.
- There is an acknowledgement that God is being addressed. The fact that this psalm is even verbalised and written down for others is hopeful and part of the beauty of Psalm 88 is that the Psalmist is not merely seeking answers but pleading to be heard in heaven, ‘If we are heard then we can heal’.
- We live in a world where people are angry.
- We live in a world where many will choose to avoid people who churn out trite answers to life-affecting questions, maybe Psalm 88 is part of our witness to those who face struggles in their life.
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