Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Let Me Wallow in Despair - On Psalm 88

A few days ago, I added a blog post which was simply Psalm 88  with no explanation as to why I posted it. Today, I'd like to delve into this Psalm for a few moments.

Psalm 88 is the only Psalm in the Bible that has no hope attached to it. All the other laments, there was some sign of hope - some sign of God's presence. But not this one. Psalm 88 is someone in the pit of despair, crying out to God but feeling his cries are unheard; questioning God but feeling his questions are unanswered. It's someone feeling picked on and abused and abandoned by God.

I'm a Wallower this Time of Year

Ok, so I don't think "wallower" is a real word. But... those who know me know that Thanksgiving is a difficult time of year for me. I don't hide this fact. And, I know there are many others out there who  feel the same way. I've listened to people as they wallow in their own darkness, and they try to pull off statements of "but, I know God is here with me"... "God has a plan"... "God will give me comfort." Some believe this, even in their darkest hours. Most of us do not. Many say things like this because they feel they must. They feel they are sinning if they don't try to acknowledge the presence of God.

The way I see it? The reason I don't lie and say I know God is with me during these times? Because God can see into my heart. He knows my thoughts. He knows my fears. Lying to myself and saying God is with me.. He'll give me strength and comfort - God knows I don't believe this at this moment, and I am therefore essentially lying to God. God knows that during the Thanksgiving season, when many others are finding things to be thankful for, my thoughts resemble that of Psalm 88:

(bits and pieces from the hopeless Psalm  #88....)
I am overwhelmed with troubles
I am like one without strength.
I am like the slain whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
You have taken from me my closest friends
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
But I cry to you for help, Lord;
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.

Why Do I Love this Psalm? 

Of all the Psalms, this Psalm of utter despair and darkness actually gives me the most hope. It shows me that it is ok to wallow in my own despair for a while. I don't have to say "I know you're with me God" if I don't believe it in that moment. I don't have to pretend to understand God's plan. I don't have to pretend to like God's plan. I don't have to pretend to be thankful.

And it actually reminds me that even in my darkest times, God really is there with me. I don't feel him. I don't believe it at the time or in the moment, but He is there.

There is a strange comfort and freedom in knowing that I don't have to pretend... that it is ok to just wallow.

Comforting the Wallowing

People don't always know how to comfort the person who is deeply seated in their own despair. They want to remind the person that God is with them - but the person doesn't believe it or want to hear it. This, of course, doesn't mean you shouldn't say these words. Just be prepared for the person to not see it. And allow them that opportunity. Remind them of Psalm 88 - that they don't have to find that hope right now. Pray they do find it... but don't make them feel they have to find it.

One of the most comforting things I was told during my wallowing in self-pity came from a dear friend of mine. He simply let me know "You don't need to be thankful, for the rest of us will do that part for you." Sometimes, the best thing you can do is let the person know it's ok to feel hopeless and thankless for a little while. In fact, I don't think this friend realizes it, but his words actually helped me find hope and something to be thankful for.

May the peace of Christ be with you all.

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