An Invitation to Hang in There with God
O LORD, I cry out to you.
I will keep on pleading day by day.
Chances are you won’t hear this psalm in church today. (If you do, let me know!) Psalm 88 is one of those —psalms and, indeed, there are —many that leave us perplexed. It is one long lament, with little by way of hope. Thus, this psalm tends to be ignored, except in churches that work systematically through the entire Psalter.
What should we do with Psalm 88? We don’t know exactly what Heman the Ezrahite, who wrote this psalm, was facing, but we know it was overwhelming to him. His life was “full of troubles and death draws near” (88:3). His friends abandoned him (88:8) and his loved ones were taken away (88:18). Heman sees the hand of God in his suffering. “You have thrown me into the lowest pit,” he accuses the Lord.
Yet Heman keeps on praying. Sometimes he cries out for mercy. At other times, he challenges God to consider God’s own loss should Heman die: “Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love?” (88:11). No matter what happens to him, Heman will stay in relationship with a God he doesn’t understand, whose actions seem wrong: “O Lord, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day” (88:13).
Thus, Psalm 88 offers us an invitation to hang in there with God, even when we don’t get what he’s doing, even when it seems that God is being unfair, even when we are exhausted and discouraged. Perhaps if we read this psalm more often—yes, even in —church we’d be better prepared when the dark days come in our own lives.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to Psalm 88? Have you ever felt like Heman? Have you ever prayed like Heman? Do you need his invitation to hang in there with God today?
PRAYER: Gracious God, there are times when it seems as if your grace has disappeared, replaced by your anger, or perhaps by your distance from us. In these valleys of the shadow of death, we wonder if you still care, or even if you’re still there. In despair, we may even think that there’s no point hanging in there with you.
Thank you for Psalm 88, which invites us to stay in relationship with you even in times of darkness. Thank you for the blunt honesty of this psalm. Heman doesn’t pretend as if all is fine. Rather, he lays his soul before you without holding back is discouragement.
Help me, Lord, to hang in there with you, both in times of delight and times of sorrow. When I’m tempted to let go of you, don’t let go of me. May I remain in prayer, like Heman, pleading to you day by day.
Today, I’m reminded to pray for those in my life who are in a place like that of Heman. Help them to persist in prayer. Reveal to them your love and grace. Hear their prayers and deliver them. Most of all, let them know your peace, the peace that comes through intimate relationship with you. Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.