I will praise Him!
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.
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?
Reading: 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.
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 (NIV).
There are 150 psalms in the Book of Psalms and one of the most remarkable things about them is their emotional span. They range from giddy heights of joy and praise to great depths of depression and sorrow. The full array of human emotion and experience is on display. Whatever state you find yourself in, there’s a psalm for that—a psalm for every situation and human need. If you are in desperate straits, there’s a psalm for that. If you are soaring in the presence of God, there’s a psalm for that too. They reflect our need for God and our desire to connect with Him in all of life’s experiences.
Psalm 88 is a cry for help from the deepest pit of human need. Hear the psalmist’s cry of anguish: 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 confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.
For reasons that we are not told, the psalmist feels trapped in the worst of circumstances. At times I think we all have been there—feeling alone with no one to turn to. In such times, there is no one to turn to but the LORD. In our time of despair He does not reject us or turn us away. He is a God who comforts us, even as Paul, the apostle declares, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
If you are in the depths of depression or despair follow the example of Heman, the psalmist. Call out to God. He is listening. He reaches to the lowest pit.
Response: LORD God, I need your comfort. Hear my prayer and answer me. In this time of sorrow show me a sign of your love and favor, Lord. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you currently facing a time of trouble or sorrow? Are others praying for you?
Reading: Psalm 85
I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps (NIV).
Psalm 85 began with the psalmist reflecting on a wonderful time of God’s favor and forgiveness. God’s grace had been abundant and a source of great joy. But that is not the present reality. It would seem that for some reason God’s hand of blessing has been lifted and the psalmist finds himself crying out for mercy and revival. Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, LORD, and grant us your salvation.
Times of hardship and personal setbacks can leave us wondering if God has abandoned us. Have we sinned? Has God withdrawn His blessing from our lives? Will He shows us His kindness once again? In difficult times these questions often flood our minds.
After pleading for restoration and pouring out his troubles before God the psalmist makes this statement, “I will listen to what God the LORD says.”
Now that’s sound advice. Listening to what God says is always a good idea. It resolves inner conflict and brings peace of mind. And what does God the LORD say? “He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.”
Often we feel that when things aren’t going right in our lives, we must be at fault. Perhaps we are and we should repent. But there are other times when the hardships we face are not due to sin or error on our part. Troubles and difficulties come to all of us. On such occasions the LORD promises us peace. He assures us that we are walking in His will and He is right there with us in the midst of life’s storms. Here is His promise for you: The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.
Hang onto the righteousness of God. He is about to step into your life in a beautiful way.
Response: LORD God, I turn to you in the middle of my difficulties. Open my ears to hear your voice speaking to me. I trust you to lead me. Come and step into my life. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you recall occasions when God has stepped into your life? What did that look like?
Reading: Psalm 69
For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of David.
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.
You, God, know my folly;
my guilt is not hidden from you (NIV).
Above all else Psalm 69 is a plea for help. Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
Have you ever been neck deep in trouble? I’ve been there and it’s not an entirely pleasant experience. I recall hanging upside down in my car, which was sitting on its roof in a snow-covered ditch. My wife was suspended upside down in the driver’s seat beside me.
Suddenly finding yourself upside down after a high-speed-icy skid can be unsettling. I recall unfastening my seatbelt so I could reverse my position and sit upright on the interior of the car roof. Opening the car doors was impossible due to the snow jammed up on the outside. There we sat, trapped, car tires in the air, as the sun began to set.
We had two life lines: a mobile phone and a direct line to Jesus. Both worked flawlessly. Within minutes a young couple helped us out of the car. Later that evening we drove our flipped car back into the city undamaged. There was nothing to indicate we were in a rollover, not even a scratch on the car body.
This true account serves as a reminder to me that God hears us when we pray. When we are in over our head—when we are neck deep and beyond—we can call out to God.
God did not save us because we are faultless. As the psalmist says, “You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you.” God saves us because of His great mercy.
Response: LORD God, thank you for showing us mercy when we don’t deserve it. Thank you for coming to rescue the likes of me. For this mercy and a thousand more, I give you thanks. Amen.
Your Turn: Has the Lord helped you when you were neck deep in trouble?
Reading: Psalm 55
As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me.
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
God, who is enthroned from of old,
who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
because they have no fear of God.
My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.
His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous be shaken.
But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you (NIV).
The phone call wasn’t good news. After our 7,000 km trip to western Canada an oil change was in order, and my wife volunteered to take our car to have that service done. She called back with the news that the car needed new tires and there was a leak in the front end suspension system. Suddenly a routine oil change turned into a major expense, and this all comes so soon after the costs for our trip. Consequently, these words from Psalm 55 have added meaning for me this morning: Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you.
These are minor troubles in the sight of God. He is more than willing to carry them. Speaking prophetically David invites us to cast our cares on the LORD. That includes unexpected bills, injuries or medical emergencies.
One of my favorite leisure time activities is skipping rocks across the water. There’s something so unnatural about a stone dancing across the water. Stones are supposed to sink, not hop across the waves. But when they are cast with enough force and with the right technique they do the impossible. They skip across the water.
Notice there is a promise attached to those cares that we cast on the LORD. This is the LORD’s promise: He will sustain you. He will sustain us—sustain us in the midst of the impossible. Until like that dancing rock, we safely reach the other side.
Response: LORD God, I cast my worries and cares on you. I am so thankful that you care about the details of my life. With the psalmist, David, I can say, “But as for me, I trust in you.” Amen.
Your Turn: Do you have cares that you need to cast onto the LORD today?
Reading: Psalm 46
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah.
According to alamoth. A song.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress (NIV).
Why are you confident? Confidence is a key ingredient in the life of any child of God. If we lack confidence, we lack faith. In fact, the word confidence is rooted in faith. Confidence is derived from the Latin word fide, which means faith. It is etymologically linked to words like fidelity and fiduciary—words that stand for trust and true faithfulness. But this faithfulness, fidelity and confidence come as a result of a relationship.
If we have no relationship with someone, how can we trust them? How can we have confidence in them or their actions if we don’t know them?
Here in Psalm 46, the psalmist expresses his complete confidence in God. He expresses that confidence despite the evidence around him. Hear his confident assertion: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is nothing quite as unnerving as an earthquake. I know this from personal experience. When the solid ground beneath one’s feet suddenly gives way and rolls and buckles, nerves begin to fray. But the psalmist remains confident because he knows the One who is in control—the One who remains unmoved and unshakable. In times of trouble we can turn to Him.
But we should not turn to God simply as a last resort. He is the God who is with us. Our confidence grows as we live with Him day by day, in good times and bad. Our confidence grows as we experience Him as our rock of refuge and our shelter in the storm. Then we can say, “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Response: LORD God, I put my trust in you. In times of trouble you have been my help and my strength. I turn to you in confidence because you are with me. You are my Savior and my God. Amen.
Your Turn: Has your confidence been shaken recently? Where have you turned for help?
Reading: Psalm 44
All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.
Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
Awake, LORD! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love (NIV).
As previously noted, Psalm 44 begins in a very positive fashion as the psalmist recalls the goodness of the LORD and the great victories Israel has won because of the LORD’s help. But that is not the present reality. The present reality is filled with defeat, death and destruction. The psalmist moves from rejoicing over past victories to lamenting over present-day tribulations. Hear his words of anguish: Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
What do you do in the midst of defeat? Do you put on a brave face and pretend all is going well? There may be occasions when putting on a brave face is warranted, even necessary—but inside, when we are alone with our thoughts we question why God would allow such things. Why would God allow a child to die? Why would He allow a natural disaster like an earthquake to claim countless innocent lives? Normally, these life-shattering matters don’t come with pat answers in tow. We are left in a state of grief and bewilderment.
Often believers see such events as retribution for sins committed against a holy God. But note the psalmist’s complaint: All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant. Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path.
The brutal truth is bad things happen to good people. Sometimes Christians are martyred on a beach in Libya. Sometimes a cruel disease hems us in on every side and there is no escape, aside from death and heaven’s door. Sometimes all we can do is pour out our complaint before a God of unfailing love.
Response: LORD God, when life is hard, help me to remember to bring my complaints and travails to you. You are bigger than any agony or grief I may face. I call out to you, my Savior and my God. Amen.
Your Turn: In your opinion has God been unfair to you? How do you respond?
Reading: Psalm 44
But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.
You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.
You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.
I live in disgrace all day long,
and my face is covered with shame
at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge (NIV).
Psalm 44 begins on a very positive note as the psalmist recalls the goodness of the LORD and the great victories Israel has won because of the LORD’s help. But that was the past. This is now and the triumphs of bygone years are just fading memories. The current reality as described in this portion of the psalm is a depressing litany of disgrace, disaster and defeat.
But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us.
We can all pretend that after we turn our lives over to Christ everything will go well for us. Often it does. After all, isn’t He on our side? Isn’t He working on our behalf for our success? Why would He allow stress, trouble and hardship to come our way?
The truth is the LORD is far more interested in developing our character than our comfort. Character development doesn’t happen without adversity. James, our Lord’s brother has some sound advice on this topic.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
I dislike adversity, but we should greet adversity as a friend—a friend that provokes us to prayer and to overcoming. Hard times push us into discovering God’s grace afresh.
Response: LORD God, help me to see the difficulties I face as stepping stones to victory. I know I need your help, so I call out to you. Change me through the hard times. You are my Savior and my God. Amen.
Your Turn: How has adversity helped to develop your character?