Years ago, a tv variety show was introduced basically so country singers could have a platform to promote their music to the general public. From the show HeeHaw, a little country humor was thrown in between the country songs. Every week, two “good ole’ boys, dressed in overalls, would sing:
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
And then they would both spit “raspberries” with their mouths. Yeah, not so high class, but we all laughed as kids for the first few times. Then it got old. Very old.
Is that what the psalmist is singing in today passage? At first read through, all we hear is darkness and despair. Going a bit deeper, we learn that this is the last “sons of Korah” psalm in the Psalms and is perhaps the most plaintive song in the entire book. 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. What is up with that?
The psalm speaks of darkness, life in the depths, the immanence of death, feelings of drowning, loneliness, and imprisonment. I wonder if a pandemic was going on at the time? 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;
COME to the Lord by faith. Be honest in prayer no matter what is going on. Heman had trusted the Lord to save him, and the fact that he prayed as he did indicates that his faith was still active. No matter how we feel and no matter how impossible our circumstances, we can always come to the Lord with our burdens.
TELL the Lord how you feel. He already knows, but if you need a sounding board the best person to tell how you honestly feel is One who can take it. Telling someone else just brings them down and you still don’t have a solution. Only God knows and can help.
DEFEND your cause before the Lord. Heman’s argument is simply that his death will rob God of a great opportunity to demonstrate His power and glory. Sometimes, when I don’t know what to pray when life is threatened, I simply pray, may Your Glory be seen in this. God answers that prayer beyond our wildest imaginations.
WAIT for the Lord’s answer. This is the toughest one of all. We cry out, “how long, O God?” many times in our own prayers while waiting of God’s answer and best timing. Sometimes waiting is the only thing we can do, right? So, what do we learn in the wait? God’s best lessons of faith are taught in the wait. “Be still and know that I am God” comes to mind. Be still means to let go and give it all to God with faith knowing that He will intercede. I have discovered that it is in giving up completely but I find God works His wonders. Mm.
So, it seems this psalm of doom, despair and agony has given us an encouraging lesson about our faith. What do you think? Gloom or Gladness?
Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs
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.
TRUTH: The only true Friend we have in the gloom and darkness times of our lives is God who sheds His light and dispels the darkness. Be still, wait and watch God do what only God can do!
Proverb 27:1, The Message
WISDOM: “Don’t brashly announce what you’re going to do tomorrow; you don’t know the first thing about tomorrow.”
We don’t know what tomorrow holds but we know who is in charge of all our tomorrows. Great are You, Lord! I love how you love us. I love how you work. You have helped me through many dark times, transforming my life little by little. All my hope, faith, trust is in You alone because of my love for You. Continue to do what You must in me—but be gentle. Show me the way I should go and I will walk it. Lead my every thought and action with your wisdom.
In Jesus Name, Amen