The Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan
O LORD, my God, my Savior,
by day and night I cry to you.
Let my prayer enter into your presence;
incline your ear to my lamentation.
For I am full of trouble;
my life is at the brink of the grave.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I have become like one who has no strength;
Lost among the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have laid me in the depths of the Pit,
in dark places, and in the abyss.
Your anger weighs upon me heavily,
and all your great waves overwhelm me.
You have put my friends far from me;
you have made me to be abhorred by them;
I am in prison and cannot get free.
My sight has failed me because of trouble;
LORD, I have called upon you daily;
I have stretched out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
will those who have died stand up and give you thanks?
Will your loving-kindness be declared in the grave?
your faithfulness in the land of destruction?
Will your wonders be known in the dark?
or your righteousness in the country where all
But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
LORD, why have you rejected me?
why have you hidden your face from me?
Ever since my youth, I have been wretched and at the
point of death;
I have borne your terrors with a troubled mind.
Your blazing anger has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me;
They surround me all day long like a flood;
they encompass me on every side.
My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me,
and darkness is my only companion.
O LORD, my God, my Savior, by day and night I cry to you. Let my prayer enter into your presence; incline your ear to my lamentation. For I am full of trouble.. (Psalm 88:1-3a)
It is no secret to those who know me best that I love the psalms. I have often noted that the psalms express the full range of human emotion, our joys, sorrows, pains – even our most secret thoughts in relation to God and our fellow human beings. The words are often in the raw language of the human heart and soul. Today we encounter Psalm 88, considered one of the darkest texts in the psalter – full of soul crushing misery and grief, loss, rejection, and isolation.
It is not uncommon for psalms to begin from a place of anger, trouble, or deep distress as they reflect moments and feelings universal to the human condition. We often find that after the psalmist literally lists his complaints before God, there is a pivot in tone and words to a sense of healing and hope. However, Psalm 88, does not provide us with a neatly tied happy bow of hope at its end. Rather it ends with despair, “My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, and darkness is my only companion.”
I have asked myself, “so what do I take away from this psalm?” It is a sad but true fact that there are stories that don’t always have happy endings. We learn that lesson even as children. The past year has brought so much suffering, death, and loss for so many. We have all learned that misfortune and tragedy are real and can strike anyone. I have personally come to understand that in times of darkness and struggle that seem to linger, my prayers are even more important. To worship God in the midst of adversity and misfortune is to fully understand who I am in relation to God.
This is a psalm of faith, for no matter how absolutely horrible or difficult things are, we can still turn to and cry out to the Lord, our God and Savior in whom we put our trust. Perhaps our take away today is that we can reach into the depths of our souls, empty our broken hearts, and offer all to God with the assurance that we are safe in the hands of the One from whom no secrets are hid.
Dear God, Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings
and the loud inner noises of my fears
keep pulling me away from you,
help me to trust that you are still there
Even when I am unable to hear you.
Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice saying:
“Come to me, you who are overburdened, and I will give you rest…
For I am a gentle and humble of heart.”
Let that loving voice be my guide. Amen.
(Henri J. M. Nouwen)