Follows in an excerpt from a exposition on Psalm 88 titled “Lament” by Kevin Kim.
God put this intemperate, angry, over-the-top, blasphemous rant in the Holy Scripture…in His Scripture.He put it in there to let us know that He knows how we speak when we are hurting and He understands.
He understands when our feelings so overwhelm us that we say desperate things, incorrect things, even heretical things. He understands so much that He put an example in Scripture saying, “It’s safe to pray like this with Me. It’s safe to pour out your feelings like this with Me because I am still the God of this man, despite the way he talks. I am still his Father.”
God is saying, “I am not your God because you can put on a happy face every Sunday morning.” God is saying to you, “I am not your God because you say all the right things to Me. I am not your God because you do all the right things. I am not your God because you can hold it together. I am just your God. I am just your God, and I am big enough and I am strong enough to hold you when you’re falling apart and to love you at your very best and at your very worst.” He understands your weeping, He understands you anguish, He understands you tears, and He is big enough and strong enough to take it. It is safe to pour out your heart to Him. Psalm 88 is a sign of His grace and understanding.
I remember thumbing through the Psalter of a church I once attended for a brief while. I found it interesting that Psalm 88 was excluded. Having struggled with varying degrees of depression most of my life, I quite frankly am glad Psalm 88 is included in the Bible. Those with such struggles need to know they are not alone. Maybe, too, we find a hint, a shadow, of Christ’s lament on the cross within this Psalm, as One Who felt, at His darkest hour, forsaken, even by the Father as He faced a wrath deserved by us. Maybe we are sometimes allowed to share, even in our wretched unworthiness, a taste of His suffering. We find, too, He comes into our darkness, quietly, and whispers to us that we are, by His grace, accepted and loved, and that one day, all the darkness will pass.
A Cry of Desperation
A song. A psalm of the sons of Korah. For the choir director: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. (A)
1 LORD, God of my salvation,
I cry out before You day and night. (B)
2 May my prayer reach Your presence;
listen to my cry. (C)
3 For I have had enough troubles,
and my life is near Sheol. (D)
4 I am counted among those going down to the Pit. (E)
I am like a man without strength, (F)
5 abandoned [a] among the dead.
I am like the slain lying in the grave, (G)
whom You no longer remember,
and who are cut off from Your care. (H) [b]
6 You have put me in the lowest part of the Pit,
in the darkest places, in the depths. (I)
7 Your wrath weighs heavily on me; (J)
You have overwhelmed me with all Your waves. (K)
8 You have distanced my friends from me;
You have made me repulsive to them. (L)
I am shut in and cannot go out.
9 My eyes are worn out from crying. (M)
LORD, I cry out to You all day long; (N)
I spread out my hands to You. (O)
10 Do You work wonders for the dead?
Do departed spirits rise up to praise You? (P)
11 Will Your faithful love be declared in the grave,
Your faithfulness in Abaddon? (Q)
12 Will Your wonders be known in the darkness,
or Your righteousness in the land of oblivion? (R)
13 But I call to You for help, LORD;
in the morning my prayer meets You. (S)
14 LORD, why do You reject me? (T)
Why do You hide Your face from me? (U)
15 From my youth,
I have been afflicted and near death.
I suffer Your horrors; I am desperate. (V)
16 Your wrath sweeps over me;
Your terrors destroy me. (W)
17 They surround me like water all day long;
they close in on me from every side. (X)
18 You have distanced loved one and neighbor from me;
darkness is my [only] friend. (Y) [c]
Stating the obvious, bumper stickers and church signs are often poor venues for declarations requiring nuance, and perhaps one should not put too much effort in analyzing them. That being said, I ran across a church sign near my house recently that read “Too Blessed to be Depressed.” These are the same guys whose sign once read “God’s Stimulus Package: The Rapture.” (more on it here) After reading this sign I thought of the following verses and the tensions contained therein.
Matthew 5:1-4 (NASB)
When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
I think about the inference of that sign that it is normative that Christians should always be happy and never depressed. What that sign can be is a slap in the face to someone who mourns. There are strains of Christianity that really think that Christians are never to be in any kind of want, physical or otherwise. In light of that church sign, I find it ironic that there is a book in the Bible titled Lamentations. The Psalms are full of lament; some flirt with utter despair. Psalm 88 comes to mind.
Here are a couple of pertinent quotes that I ran across recently to reflect upon in light of the all the aforementioned:
A. W. Tozer: “It is doubtful God can bless any man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
Alan Redpath: “When God wants to do an impossible task he takes an impossible man and crushes him.”
HT: Abide In Christ
In light of the above:
“…your poverty is no hindrance, for my Master asks nothing from you – the poorer the wretch, the more welcome to Christ. My Master is no covetous priest, who demands pay for what he does – he forgives us freely; he wants none of your merits, nothing whatever from you; come as you are to him, for he is willing to receive you as you are. But here is my sorrow and complaint, that this blessed Lord Jesus, though present to heal, receives no attention from the most of men. They are looking another way, and have no eyes for him…. My Master is not wrathful with you who forget him and neglect him, but he pities you from his heart. I am but his poor servant, but I pity, from my inmost; heart, those of you who live without Christ. I could fain weep for you who are trying other ways of salvation, for they will all end in disappointment, and if continued in, will prove to be your eternal destruction.” -Charles Spurgeon