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Devotional

Psalm 88

A Song of Darkness

In Psalm 88, we see that if God has laid you in a grave of despair and flooded you with terrors, hear this: God has laid you beside his beloved Son, Jesus.

What’s Happening?

God is called a God who saves, but he does not save the psalmist (Psalm 88:1). Instead, God brings him to the point of death and all but drowns him in depression. Day and night, the psalmist cries out to God, asking him to listen to his prayer (Psalm 88:2). His song makes no mention of inward sin or outward enemy. He neither confesses guilt, pleads innocence, nor asks for rescue. The psalmist is simply alone with his thoughts in the dark.

He feels like a mortally wounded soldier discarded among the corpses of a mass grave. He is left to die, emptied of strength, unpitied, and forgotten (Psalm 88:3-5). It’s as if God has buried him beneath heavy waves he cannot swim out from under (Psalm 88:6-7). Like a leprous man, he’s repulsive to his friends and is quarantined with no hope of healing from his grief and gloom (Psalm 88:8-9).

In agony, the psalmist calls out to God. He reminds him that there is no praise of God among the dead. The deceased don’t worship him (Psalm 88:10). The dead can’t remember God’s wonders, the departed cannot prize love. The damned can’t speak of God’s faithfulness or remember his miracles (Psalm 88:11-12). If God wants the psalmist to praise him, then he must rescue him before he dies. 

But God keeps his face hidden and withholds his rescue (Psalm 88:13-14). This is nothing new. The psalmist's childhood was filled with similar abandonment (Psalm 88:15). But now these accumulated sufferings overwhelm him and he feels drowned in despair (Psalm 88:16-17). His loved ones have left him for dead and alone. Forsaken by all others, the only one who listens is the growing darkness (Psalm 88:18).

Where is the Gospel?

Depression, chronic pain, disease, and grief drown people for years on end. For others, the cloud of sorrow eclipses their entire lives. If God has laid you in a grave of despair and flooded you with terrors, hear this: God has laid you beside his beloved Son. If you are suffering a living death, know this: Jesus has suffered and died with you. He had no vital signs when they took him off his instrument of torture. He was laid in the grave without a prayer. Jesus took his place among the departed. The waves of God engulfed him. The light of the world was drowned in darkness. The God who saves, didn’t save Jesus (Matthew 27:43, 50). That means when you feel abandoned, Jesus always weeps with you.

But Jesus isn’t just another man. He is God embodied. And if God himself has suffered and died, our suffering is not a product of God’s indifference. Your suffering does not mean God is ignoring you or mad at you. Your suffering, however great it may be, does not mean God has abandoned you anymore than it means God abandoned himself. Though you may lay in death, you are in the company of God in Jesus. You can be confident that God sees your suffering, knows your pain, and has not left you in the dark. 

See For Yourself

I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see the God who knows darkness. And may you see Jesus as the one who suffered and died alone, so that he could be present with you in your suffering.

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