Reading: Psalm 88
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;
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 (NIV).
Psalm 88 is the darkest of all the psalms. Many of the psalms are bright and cheery, filled with joy and praise. If I were to assign a color to them, I would paint them bright yellow, dappled with hues of orange and red. On the other hand, Psalm 88 draws from a much darker palette of black, grey and brown. This psalm is colored by loss, rejection and sorrow.
Attacking the ice dragon, Winterlude ice sculpture, Ottawa, Canada — photo by David Kitz
Many psalms spring from a place of grief, trouble and distress. This is only fitting since every life has such moments. Usually the psalmist pours out his troubles and his complaint before God, but he ends on a positive note—a note of hope. But Psalm 88 does not follow this pattern. It ends on a downer. You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.
What are we to make of this ending? The sad reality is that not every book has a happy ending. Not every personal story has the Hollywood ending that we would like. Tragedy is real. Tragedy can strike anyone. We can live in a pretend world that says it isn’t so, but we are fooling only ourselves. This psalm adds a dark note of real-life integrity to the Book of Psalms.
But in the middle of it all—in the middle of his dark night of the soul—the psalmist takes his stand. But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Sometimes we don’t have answers. Sometimes all we have is prayer.
Response: LORD God, when I am down, I cry to you for help. You are my hope when all hope is gone. Come to me in the dark times of my life. At such times I need you the most. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you going through a dark time? Do you find help in prayer?