A Psalm for the Dark Days

I’ve been reading through the book of Psalms for my morning devotionals and noticed a theme throughout the book. No matter how dark or perilous the situation seems for the psalmist, they still find a way to praise God through it all. They might start the psalm off with words of lament or crying out to the Lord for justice, but they’ll end it acknowledging the steadfast love and sovereignty of the Lord. That is until I got to Psalm 88 today.

“O Lord, God of my salvation,
    I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
    incline your ear to my cry!

Psalm 88:1-2 ESV

This psalm had a distinctly different tone to it, and you could almost taste the desperation and loneliness of the author. He starts writing in a deeply depressing state and ends the psalm similarly. There is no guiding you through the valleys of life while also reminding you of the wonders of God. There’s no looking ahead to God’s glorious mercy even though you’re in the pits of despair. There is only the ever-true reality that sometimes the darkness is so all-consuming that we can only hold onto the simple fact that there is a God. Not that we have hope because of all that God has done. Not that we can have joy knowing this will be worked out for our good and God’s glory. Not that we can always turn to God to be our refuge and our strength when life gets overwhelming. No, the psalmist doesn’t mention any of that. He simply cries out to the Lord for relief, holding onto the single thread of faith that the Lord is truly out there.

These past couple of months have been a real roller coaster of emotions for me, from experiencing deep depression and extreme anxiety, and utter joy and delight. Through it all, I’ve been journeying through the Psalms. And I can say that there were times that I was a little annoyed with the psalmists and their ability to always redirect their focus from their troubles back to the Lord. It seemed like one minute, they were saying that they were being afflicted and attacked from all sides, and the next they were praising the Lord and reminding themselves of the steadfast mercy and grace of the Lord. To be honest, I found that extremely hard to read sometimes. Because I wanted to stay stuck in how I was feeling. I wanted to keep my eyes glued to what was going wrong in my life instead of redirecting my eyes and my heart toward the Lord. And there was also a part of me that felt like the psalmists were making light of what they were experiencing. That they were amping up their problems to look more holy when they mentioned how wonderful the Lord was. A part of me wishes that I had read Psalm 88 back when I was in the middle of the thickest and heaviest darkness I’ve ever experienced. Because it shows you that it’s okay not to always have the perfect Christian answer. That it’s okay to be in darkness so thick you don’t know which way is up and to have the name of the Lord be the only thing you’re clinging to.

I’m praying for you if that’s where you are right now. It’s an incredibly tough place to be, and it can feel like it’ll never end. If there’s one thing that you hold on to, hold fast to this: there is a God. He’s out there, and He’s on your side. When it feels like life is slipping through your fingers, cling to that truth. You’ll make it out, friend. I don’t know when, and I don’t know how, but the Lord will never leave you or forsake you. Hold fast; there is a God.

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