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 my companions and loved one from me;
the darkness is my closest friend. (Ps 88: 16-18)
The psalter contains numerous pleas for restoration, salvation and redemption but none as bleak as this. The psalmist lives a life, as it were, knowing only the dark side of God’s presence. Unlike Job who once knew a life of blessing, the psalmist here describes a life of pain and affliction from birth to the day he pens this scroll. The tragedy of his life is of such a degree that it is finally responsible for driving away even his loved ones and companions as he lives with one foot constantly at the edge of the grave.
The casual bible reader will quickly sift through these verses, reading forward to find more uplifting passages, but this would be a mistake.
Individual purpose is never easy to discern with our limited mindset. Why God would burden one of his beloved with such difficulty without respite is beyond our ability understand. And yet, we are called by the scriptures to endure, and even find joy in our travail, trusting that our pain and the darkness we inhabit has a larger purpose in His plan. Our response often echoes the despair that rings in these verses.
But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? (vv 13-14)
This is a familiar frustration, that of the prayer that does not reach its audience. We plead and cry out but silence and pain are the only responses we receive. The Tempter whispers in our ear to surrender, to give up the belief that relief is at hand and to curse the One who visits it upon us. We come close, but we cannot do it. God will redeem this pain and bring light to this darkness. It may not be until we have left this plane, but it will occur. So we continue, like the psalmist, to raise our voice…
I call to you, O Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you. (v9b)
Grace and peace to you.
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