This is a shocking psalm–the only one that ends with not even a glimmer of hope. As a matter of fact, Psalm 88 ends with the psalmist shunned by his friends and loved ones, leaving him with darkness as his only companion. What happened? Where’s that happy ending? You’ll find it elsewhere in the psalms, but not here. Why not?
This psalm is really important. The Lord is telling us what we already know–that life, even as believers, doesn’t always feel neat and tidy, joyous all the time. We know that– at least in our heads but our hearts yearn for something better. Things don’t always turn out as we may hope and pray. We feel hemmed in– in a fix that seems to never get fixed, a fog that refuses to lift, through an exit that leads to nowhere.
I remember crying out to God in a church where it was no longer all heaven that was breaking out. Quite the contrary. Friends became few and far between. Tongues were wagging in an inflamed way. My only defense was in telling what I knew. But I wouldn’t. A pastor must never break confidences. I was hemmed in. No fix could be fixed without compromising what I refused to compromise, telling what I said I would never tell. A spiritual and pastoral ‘Catch-22’.
For better or for worse, I decided to move along. I was now living what Psalm 88 was all about. God’s hand felt like He had let go of mine and given me the back of His. Crying out to Him seemed hollow and futile. I was in bad shape. Felt like I had nowhere to hide and I wanted out of the limelight.
What can you say? Don’t throw pious, well-intentioned platitudes at them. It will only hurt and alienate. Stand alongside them. Listen. Shut up for once. Pray for them when they can’t. Wait to see what the Lord will make of all this mess and confusion. For ‘all things work together’…in His time.
He did that for me. It took a long time and some things got worse while others got much better. I discovered something about Psalm 88– it’s good to look at the beginning verse for that glimmer of hope. Where the psalmist affirms his faith in ‘O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you(Psalm 88:1). He hasn’t lost his faith in the Lord. He’s hanging on to Him for dear life…as best he can under the circumstances. You can too. I did and I’m still holding onto the One who is my salvation…no matter what, no matter if the happy ending will only be in Heaven. And that will be real happy ending indeed!
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for standing with us in tough times. Jesus’ knew the same. Amen.