Psalms for Troubled Times – Psalm 88

In the Darkest Hour

This is the saddest psalm in the psalter. It is an elegy of affliction in that darkest hour of the night. There is a faint glimmer that morning is coming (v13), before the psalmist is swallowed once more by the darkness.

This is a dreadful place to be, yet it is certain that in these troubled times, a result of sin being in this world, many are there now. Pray for them.

Maybe you are there too, and know the darkest hour is when you are at your lowest (v6); are lost for answers (v12); and lonely (v18).

Yet consider: no matter how dark the hour for us, it is nothing in comparison to the utter darkness felt by God’s well beloved Son, as he hung upon the cross of Calvary.

The Lowest Place

For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength … Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.’ (v3-6)

After man had done their worst to the sinless Son of God, and Christ hung upon that cross – ‘his visage so marred more than any man’ (Isa 52:14) – truly He could say ‘my life draweth nigh unto the grave’.

And yet, as much as those physical sufferings touch our hearts, and they should, they are nothing compared to the spiritual sufferings Christ endured in the darkness.

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.’ (Mark 15:33)

How I thank God, that in His darkest hour, He who came from the heights of glory, went to ‘the lowest pit’, to be ‘counted with them that go down to the pit’, that is us – sinners deserving of hell. And in our stead, as the Perfect Man, He could say to God ‘Thy wrath lieth hard on me’.

And so, because of Christ, we need never reach the lowest place of outer darkness!

Lost for Answers

Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee. Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah. Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?’ (v9-12)

It is in that dense darkness, having reached the lowest place, that the questions come, one after the other, bombarding you, and not one answer in sight. You are lost! Hope begins to evaporate.

Christ has been there too. Think of His plaintive, forlorn cry “Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabachthani?”- ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34)

Oh yes, in the light of day there is an answer – there always is. He was forsaken so that all of the psalmists question could be answered with a yes.

Christ was forsaken, so that God’s wonders could be shown to the spiritually dead; that the dead should arise and praise God; that God’s loving kindness, faithfulness and righteousness would be known. Indeed, known in the dark.

Christ is the answer to our every need, and so we need never be lost in the dark!

The Loneliest Place

LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? … Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.’ (v14,18)

Rejected by His own people, betrayed and denied by His close friends, and then forsaken by His God, Christ had reached the loneliest place.

This is probably the worst aspect of being in the darkness.

Even at our lowest, if we can see a way out, we can cope. And if we loose sight of that way, and have no answers, yet have a friend with us, we have hope.

But to be alone in the darkness … utter despair.

‘It was alone the Savior stood
In Pilate’s judgment hall;
Alone the crown of thorns He wore,
Forsaken thus by all.

Alone upon the cross He hung
That others He might save;
Forsaken then by God and man.
Alone, His life He gave.

Alone, alone,
He bore it all alone;
He gave Himself to save His own,
He suffered, bled and died alone, alone.’

Benjamin H. Price

And this is the very One who would come to you in the dark hours of your life, call you to trust in Him, and remind you of His promise: ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ (Hebs 13:5).

And if you know the truth of that promise, then you will never face have to face separation from God – you will never face the darkest hour.

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