LORD, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, LORD, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
But I cry to you for help, LORD;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, LORD, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.
Psalm 88 is attributed to Heman, the Ezrahite. Heman was known for his wisdom and musical abilities. He is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:33 and 1 Chronicles 15:17-19 as one of the musicians appointed by King David to serve in the temple. Psalm 88 is a testament to Heman's experience of anguish and his deep lament before God.
It stands out among the Psalms as a reflection of profound anguish and despair. While many Psalms express praise, thanksgiving, or confidence in God's deliverance, Psalm 88 takes us into the depths of human suffering and wrestles with the reality of pain and loneliness.
Heman begins by crying out to God, pleading for help. He expresses a deep sense of desperation and hopelessness as he feels overwhelmed by troubles and burdens. He feels abandoned by God and everybody else and wants to die. Does this sound familiar to any of you?
Unlike other Psalms that often conclude with a declaration of God's faithfulness or a shift toward hope, Psalm 88 ends with darkness and unanswered questions. It leaves us tense and uncertain, reflecting the raw human experience of prolonged suffering.
So, what can we take away from singing this psalm? Psalm 88 reminds us that bringing our deepest pain and questions before God is okay, even if he doesn't provide us with immediate answers or solutions. It teaches us the value of honest lament and the power of bringing our brokenness before God. It invites us to trust in God's presence even in the midst of darkness and unanswered prayers.
I don't know how many of you listening to this (or reading this) are going through such a dark night, but don't keep your feelings bottled up within you. Give expression to your feelings, and if you can't find the words for them, use the words of Heman the Ezrahite.
May you feel unburdened. And may God bless you.