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Rick’s Connecting the Gospel Series:
I Cry Out Day and Night before You
A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
1 – O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you.
2 – Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!
3 – For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 – I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength,
5 – like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.
6 – You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.
7 – Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
8 – You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 – my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.
10 – Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 – Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 – Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 – But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 – O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?
15 – Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 – Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 – They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together.
18 – You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.
This hard reality of God’s silence and your darkness is the story of the Psalmist in Psalm 88. This Psalm, unlike others, does not end with the God of victory breaking through to save the day. According to the Hebrew rendering of the text, the last word of the Psalm is the word “darkness.”
This Psalm helps us to understand something about darkness and pain like no other Psalm. This poem is a messy, chaotic, and confusing Psalm that the good Lord intentionally left in the sacred writ. This passage is an anti-American Psalm—in that the American culture and other first-world cultures have a generally weak understanding of suffering in a fallen world.
The overriding implication of this Psalm is that God may choose to leave you in darkness for a season. But that does not mean the darkness you are experiencing is void of God’s presence or awareness (Genesis 39:2). It means that you can’t see Him in the dark. Isn’t this what our old friend Job said?
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold (Job 23:8-10).
This text does not teach that God is away, distant, or disinterested in the sufferer. We cannot say that He was not aware of what was going on because He did inspire the writer to pen this chapter. The fact that God included this Psalm in His Word tells us that He knows and understands what is going on in our hearts and lives, even when we are unsure if God is real and relevant in our lives.
God is there, and through this Psalm, He is teaching us something about life. Yes, a Christian can go through dark times because our friend is describing it in Psalm 88. There are times when our lives take twists and turns that are much different than what we read in Psalm 40.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure (Psalm 40:1-2).
In this Psalm, the person cries to God, and the Lord “does not” hear; He has prayed and prayed and prayed, but God is not listening—so it seems. God is not only silent, but He has hidden His face from the crier. It is one thing to be rejected by man, but to feel rejected by God is the most desperate of all life’s circumstances. When my only friend is the darkness I experience, the question becomes,
Can this really be true that a believer can get to the place where there is no practical help or functional hope? It seems that if God can do all things, he would most assuredly be able to fix this. Right?
Being in a relationship with God does not mean you will escape the problems of life. At one level, you know this. Becoming old is a glaring example of the potential for suffering. You also get sick. You experience abuse and injustice just like everyone else. Perhaps you have lost jobs and, at other times, you have lost friends. Being a Christian does not mean problem-free living or smooth sailing.
The tension we can create in our souls is when we think that God works in our salvation and our sanctification identically. The God of your salvation is the conquering Victor who secured you for eternity. For Him to do this, He had to crush His Son (Isaiah 53:12). I’m speaking of the gospel as it pertains to your salvation here.
The God of your sanctification is a different kind of conquering friend. It is not just what God is doing for you but also what He is doing in you and through you. The person who the Lord is crushing through your sanctification is you (John 12:24). Once He secured your salvation through the death of His Son on the cross, He began a sanctification process: He is progressively mortifying (making dead) you for greater usefulness in His world.
The more you can understand and apply this gospel truth to your life, the more you cannot only experience and love the One who died for you but also secure a more significant victory than these temporary terrestrial comforts. Sadly, at times, we will try to smuggle into our progressive sanctification this idea of “safety expectations” as though we will go through life unscathed.
“Your expectations have a lot to do with what happens to you.” —Timothy Keller