Summary: Use of Psalm 88 to ask Where God Is in those hurting days of our lives
Where is God When It Hurts?
LORD, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, LORD, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
But I cry to you for help, LORD;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, LORD, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
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 from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.
What a depressing passage! In a Book of Hymns dedicated to praising God, we find this scripture. It makes Job look like a lollipop factory.
We are continuing our series that you asked for last fall – our Sermons from the Pews Series. You asked address the question, Where is God when it Hurts? Our scripture this morning tells us that we are not the first to ask the question and I dare say, we won’t be the last.
This Psalm is one of those classified as a lament. Sixty-one of the Psalms are fall into this category and there are another five or six that are particularly laments. So what we read here isn’t all that unusual except . . . it’s different. All the other lament Psalms turn at some point and praise God for his work. All the other laments find a way from darkness to light - but not the 88th. Not once does the writer proclaim his trust in God or praise him for what he will do. Just on and on about being deserted by God. Depressing!
I have had a love affair with the Psalm forever. It was from this passage that I preached my first sermon in a church. (I have to tell you it was a real stinker.) My wife has claimed that this Psalm has been my mistress for the last 15 years and while I will certainly not admit to that I will tell you that I have spent hours and hours poring over this particular passage. In a very strange way, God has spoken to me through this passage time and time again.
I think it can speak to all of us from time to time. At one time or another in your life, you’ve asked God, in your time of greatest need, why he has deserted you. At some point in your life you’ve worn holes in your trousers from praying and . . . nothing. You have done all the things you were suppose to do in life, you’ve been a good Christian and yet the God you worship is absent when you need him most.
“Why, LORD, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?”
The Psalmist wasn’t the first and to be honest, he wasn’t even the best at complaining about God absence. Philip Yancey tells the story from a migrant farmhand’s mother.
Last year, she begin, we went to a little church in New Jersey . . . We had all our children there, the baby included. The Reverend Jackson was there, I can’t forget his name, and he told us to be quiet, and he told us how glad we should be that we’re in this country, because it’s Christian, and not ‘godless.”
Then my husband went and lost his temper; something happened to his nerves, I do believe. He got up and started shouting, yes sir. He went up to the Reverend Mr. Jackson and told him to shut up and never speak again – not to us, the migrant people. He told him to go back to his church, wherever it is, and leave us alone and don’t be standing up there looking like he was nice to be doing us a favor.