Psalms – Prayers of Honesty
Depression, thinking all is lost, and assuming you are lost and forgotten by others is bad. But when you sink to the depths thinking that God has forgotten you, your name and circumstances, then it is time to refocus! Why? Because these are lies. These misconceptions of Who God is to us, his created, are mind suggestions put there by Satan himself.
Our next Psalm is depressing to read. The writer is honest and gritty. The writer feels all is lost…but it isn’t. God has not changed. But he feels even God is against him. Who is the overcomer in this one sided conversation with the Creator, the One who moves heaven and earth to save us?
Who wins your thoughts for the day when you give in to replays of current and past hurts and painful circumstances that bring you to your knees?
Depression. Darkness. It happens to all of us. To Whom do we go for help, clarity, focus and TRUTH? To Whom do we trust…no matter what? How long do we wait?
“I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help, at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.”
“…the only friend I have left is Darkness.”
Psalm 88, The Message
A Korah Prayer of Heman
1-9 God, you’re my last chance of the day.
I spend the night on my knees before you.
Put me on your salvation agenda;
take notes on the trouble I’m in.
I’ve had my fill of trouble;
I’m camped on the edge of hell.
I’m written off as a lost cause,
one more statistic, a hopeless case.
Abandoned as already dead,
one more body in a stack of corpses,
And not so much as a gravestone—
I’m a black hole in oblivion.
You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit,
sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
I’m battered senseless by your rage,
relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.
You turned my friends against me,
made me horrible to them.
I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out,
blinded by tears of pain and frustration.
9-12 I call to you, God; all day I call.
I wring my hands, I plead for help.
Are the dead a live audience for your miracles?
Do ghosts ever join the choirs that praise you?
Does your love make any difference in a graveyard?
Is your faithful presence noticed in the corridors of hell?
Are your marvelous wonders ever seen in the dark,
your righteous ways noticed in the Land of No Memory?
13-18 I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help,
at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.
Why, God, do you turn a deaf ear?
Why do you make yourself scarce?
For as long as I remember I’ve been hurting;
I’ve taken the worst you can hand out, and I’ve had it.
Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life;
I’m bleeding, black-and-blue.
You’ve attacked me fiercely from every side,
raining down blows till I’m nearly dead.
You made lover and neighbor alike dump me;
the only friend I have left is Darkness.
SEEK TRUTH…SEEK LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS!
In the Hebrew text, the psalm ends with the word hoshek, “darkness,” and there is no closing note of triumph as in other psalms that begin with pain and perplexity. The psalm speaks of darkness (vv. 1, 6, 12, 18), life in the depths (vv. 3-4, 6), the immanence of death (vv. 5, 10-11), feelings of drowning (vv. 7, 16-17), loneliness (vv. 5, 8, 14, 18), and imprisonment (v. 8). Heman was a servant of God who was suffering intensely and did not understand why, yet he persisted in praying to God and did not abandon his faith. Not all of life’s scripts have happy endings, but that does not mean that the Lord has forsaken us. From Heman’s experience, as recorded in this psalm, we can discover four instructions to follow when life falls apart and our prayers seemingly are not answered.
1. Come to the Lord by Faith (vv. 1-2).
Heman’s life had not been an easy one (v. 15), and now it had grown even more difficult, and he felt that death was very near (vv. 3, 10-11). But he did not give up! He still trusted in God. No matter how we feel and no matter how impossible our circumstances, we can always come to the Lord with our burdens.
2. Tell the Lord How You Feel (vv. 3-9).
There is no place for hypocrisy in personal prayer. One of the first steps toward revival is to be completely transparent when we pray and not tell the Lord anything that is not true or that we do not really mean.
3. Defend Your Cause before the Lord (vv. 10-14).
Before he went to the sanctuary to assist in the worship, Heman prayed to the Lord for healing and strength, and at the close of a busy day, he prayed again. During his daily ministry, he heard the priestly benediction: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26 nasb)–but the blessing did not come to him! He felt rejected and knew that God’s face was turned away from him. But he kept on praying!
4. Wait for the Lord’s Answer (vv. 15-18).
The darkness was his friend because it hid him from the eyes of those who observed his sufferings and may have said (as did Job’s friends), “He must have sinned greatly for the Lord to afflict him so much!”
But he continued to pray and to look to God for help! “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:13-14 nasb). The Lord always has the last word, and it will not be “darkness.” We should never doubt in the darkness what God has taught us in the light.
The psalmist, Heman, endured pain and suffering, yet he kept on praying.
How do you explain the fact that some believers experience ongoing pain and suffering despite their prayers?
Did the Lord promise us an easy road?
What did He promise (see Matt. 28:20)?
Heman questioned the Lord’s fairness (v. 14).
Why do you agree or disagree that it is all right to question the Lord’s fairness?
THINK ABOUT IT…
(Help from Sarah, “A Penny of a Thought” blog)
Suffering is no stranger to humanity. Millions of people are trapped in human trafficking. Countless suffer from a physical, mental, or emotional disability that ostracizes them from society. The stress of losing a job, paying bills, natural disasters, broken relationships, unmet longings, or the loss of a loved one plague us on a daily basis.
Suffering’s complexity has been responded to with a complexity of answers. For some suffering is an illusion, a figment of our imagination. For others, it’s simply a way of life. It is what it is, therefore we should grit our teeth and bear it. Still others see suffering as punishment for past misdemeanors or current behavior (we get what we deserve), while others claim it is for our good to make us better people. Yet these answers tend to leave the sufferer tossed on a sea of pain, with no hope of anchor.
Despite this song’s darkness, principles to be applied shine from its anguish. First, this song gives individuals permission to be honest with God in persistent prayer. It is an uncomfortable fact that feelings of divine and human abandonment are common among God’s people. Yet it is often the case that when individuals are at their lowest, others try to tell them they should “just believe,” thereby indicating that the struggle of and for faith is inappropriate. This song encourages us that in times of darkness we can have confidence to speak honestly to God, expressing our pain, anguish, confusion, and even anger. The darkness is an opportunity to pursue more vigorous, urgent petition. Even in the face of silence, like Heman we can continue to honestly cry out day and night before the Lord.
Second, this song reminds us that the Church needs to be Christ’s physical presence to those who feel abandoned by God and by others. Isolation and loneliness from human abandonment are realities for many who suffer from affliction, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Yet Jesus Christ has called his Body to be ambassadors for him and to carry the burdens of others, thereby demonstrating his love and presence. Contrast this with the experience of Heman, who was shunned and abandoned by those who knew him. How might his response to God have been different if the community of faith had surrounded him with support and care?
A third principle to be drawn comes from the assurance that our experiences do not always align with reality. Specifically, while we may experience what feels like abandonment by God, the truth is that for those who have trusted in Christ, he is there even in the darkness when he cannot be perceived. Furthermore, Jesus Christ is the only one who truly experienced Psalm 88, legitimately and fully shunned by God and humanity.
This Christ who experienced true abandonment has promised to always be with those who have trusted in him, and to never leave or forsake them. For those who are his, their story does not end in the darkness of Psalm 88 but in the light of Revelation 21-22.
Each of these principles related to Psalm 88 raises a unique challenge for those who are suffering. They are bombarded with questions regarding God’s character, often face the agony of abandonment (whether intentional or unintentional), and experience the pain of isolation. Unfortunately the discomfort we, including myself, experience with this song reflects the discomfort we feel towards those who are deeply suffering. We are afraid of it. Therefore, we run from it, ignore it, or briefly acknowledge it and then casually pass on by. It takes the courage of the Holy Spirit and the love he imparts to encourage others to be persistently honest with God and to cling to the hope of Revelation 22. It takes Christ’s strength to be present with those who sit in darkness.
Psalm 88 is desperately dark. We need to allow it to communicate that message because the faithful community of God often experience the perception of divine abandonment and the reality of human abandonment. Yet while Psalm 88 ends in darkness, the story of God’s people ends in his presence where there will be no more darkness and every tear will be wiped away. Therefore, let us cling to him and never stop trusting him.
Dear Heavenly Father,
When darkness falls over us, You are there to lead us to Light and Life. Thank you for this honest, depressing psalm that changes my own thinking about today. I came to you with my own darkness and You turned me around. I will always trust you with my life. I trust you with my mind, heart and soul. Thank you, Lord for these thoughts that lift us up to where you are so we can get a glimpse of how You think and perceive our suffering and dark times.
In Jesus Name, Amen