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Giving Thanks for a Light in the Dark (Psalm 88)

We all have times we don’t feel thankful. Maybe we’re depleted, detached, despairing. Maybe God feels far away. What do you do then?

A pastor friend of mine is one of the wisest, most compassionate, and successful leaders I know. He has a large church of people who are so thankful for him, how he cares for them and leads them to Jesus in their everyday lives. But he fell into a dark pit.

The Lord led him to Psalm 88, the darkest, most despairing psalm in the Bible:

O Lord…
My soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave…
You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily upon me;
You have overwhelmed me with your waves. Selah…
I am confined and cannot escape;
My eyes are dim with grief…
Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?…
You have taken my companions and loved ones from me;
The darkness is my closest friend.

Then my friend closed his Bible and frowned, “No warm fuzzies here! That just throws my negative emotions back at me and gives me no hope.”

What did he do next? That’s the key to this story.

The rut he could’ve easily slid into would’ve been to go back to his work and responsibilities. For him as a pastor that’d be sermon prep, leading staff meetings, solving church problems, and caring for hurting people.

All the while, he’s feeling inadequate to meet the demands, empty, resentful. (“What’s in it for me? When do I get taken care of?”) He’d be grinding out daily life alone.

Instead he talked to me. He vented. He questioned. He cried. He took me into his skin.

We read Psalm 88 together. Then, he saw the Light that casts the dark shadows:

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah…
A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.

O Lord, the God who saves me,
Day and night I cry out before you.
May my prayer come before you;
Turn your ear to my cry…
I call to you, O Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you…
I cry to you for help, O Lord;
In the morning my prayer comes before you…

Do you see any Light in this dark psalm? Do you feel any warmth?

The Psalmist’s earnest cries for God rise up because God is wooing him in love. That’s why Heman was famous for singing Psalm 88, probably in a deep and glorious baritone voice. That’s why the monk-like Sons of Korah were beloved Psalmists, probably chanting Psalm 88 and sharing their family story of living through a Dark Night of the Soul and finding the light of God. (Numbers 16 and 26:9-11; 1 Chronicles 9:19-21 and 2).

Praying Psalm 88 you’re not alone — there’s a heavenly sweetness in sharing a sad song that describes your pain.

In Jesus, especially upon the cross, we see the shining face of God. “The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” is listening to us with empathy, absorbing our distress, holding us tenderly and securely, and empowering us to care for others. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Thank you Lord Jesus that when we’re in the dark you shine God’s light to us.

Whatever you’re going through there is HOPE!

Bill Gaultiere and Bobby Schuller (pastor of the Hour of Power) talk about how they find hope in challenging times. All of us at times don’t feel hope. We may be afraid to hope and be disappointed. When we put our hope in God and the eternal good he is bringing we have an anchor for our soul.
Listen to the “Soul Talks” podcast:A Hope That Won’t Disappoint

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“Thank you. I’ve been feeling discouraged and disconnected from God.
It helps to hear someone else is going through similar feelings.”
H. Decker

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