The book of Psalms bears a title that means, “praise.” Yet, Psalm 88 does not follow the typical pattern of concluding with or moving toward praise. This rare psalm is in a context, within the psalter, of many words of thanks and praise to God, seemingly indicating that refraining from a conclusion of praise is not a posture to maintain, no matter the circumstance (see also 1 Thess. 5:18). But in the Scriptures, we do have these words as a part of the song book of the Israelites. They would sing these words to the Lord from beginning to end, and they would conclude the song without turning to thanksgiving at that moment.
Perhaps today on Thanksgiving, these are actually some of the most encouraging words you can hear. You can give the groans of your heart to the Lord. And if your expressions to God does not end in praise, then you can know that you are in the company of the inspired writer of God-breathed Scripture who wrote Psalm 88.
Maybe you know and acknowledge that there are indeed many reasons to praise the Lord—just as this psalmist indicated the truth that God is his salvation (v. 1). But today, your “companions are darkness” (v. 18b). You feel like Job who made his bed darkness and called the pit his companion, as near as a family member (Job. 17:13-14).
Faith is evident when your downcast expressions are taken to the Lord because you know He is the only King of the ages who still reigns during all of life’s circumstances. Take your feelings of hopelessness, and bring them before Him. Maybe your prayer would be something like this:
“My God—the only possible Savior for this world—I cry to You. I am here before You; please hear me. I need You so very desperately.
I feel as good as dead; my soul is heavier than it has ever been, and I have no strength. Not only do I feel dead, it feels as thought You have stopped extending Your goodness to me; I feel cut off from even You.
You take no enjoyment that death and sorrows ravage the souls of people made in Your image; You take no delight that Adam and Eve sinned in the garden [original sin] and pain was brought upon the whole world. I also know that You are righteous to punish sin—You are righteous to give consequences for original sin in this world. But, oh, it is heavy to be on an earth where these just consequences of sin are felt. Oh Lord, this overwhelms me inexpressibly.
In this suffering, it feels like no one enters near; no one around me can understand. Because of that, it feels like a trap. Because of Your just judgment of original sin in this world—and without being the Author of the evil that caused such sorrow—You have sovereignly placed me here, and it feels confining.
Every day, I cry out to You, Lord. But it feels pointless to even cry out. Of what use am I to You here in such suffering? I feel like my soul has abandoned my body, and like I am unable to utter any words that are of help or service to You. But if I actually die from this sorrow—and sometimes it has felt like I could—I will be of no more use to You in this world. And I want You to use me for Your glory while You appoint me to be here; make it so that You can use me even though I feel purposeless.
Lord, I still cry out to You; I affirm that it is to You alone I can truly cry for understanding. Why, within Your sovereign control, do I have circumstances that only make me feel cast away from You? I know I don’t understand. Others do not understand either. Most people who look at my circumstances would assume that You have rejected me.
My impossible-feeling sorrow clouds Your face from me. It is as thought I cannot see You and Your goodness and glory like I used to. The righteous judgment You have brought upon this world for original sin, makes my friends feel far away. And my soul is cast away from the experience of Your goodness I so desire. My soul is in darkness today, oh Lord; You know this. You know all things. And I humbly place myself before You today.”
Lament keeps us communion with our God, who is our only hope, our salvation. Our honest and humble prayers prepare the way for the deeper assimilation of truth in our souls; for through lament we acknowledge before God our points of greatest weight and need, asking for His aid in a way that inherently agrees with Him that our personal feelings cannot deliver us.
Today, you are likely here reading these words because your Thanksgiving is without thanksgiving. Your thanksgiving is full of lament, and you cannot seem to find the way to praise. Here is the step forward I see in Psalm 88: Affirm that the Lord alone is your Savior by acting upon that truth in faith—through lamenting your pain, with an open Bible, directly and revealingly to Him.
And then, out of that, do not close the door on starting to develop another prayer that sounds like Psalm 89.
This post was originally published at Hope Mommies.