Read Psalm 88:1-9
1 O Lord, God of my salvation,
I cry out to you by day.
I come to you at night.
2 Now hear my prayer;
listen to my cry.
3 For my life is full of troubles,
and death draws near.
4 I am as good as dead,
like a strong man with no strength left.
5 They have left me among the dead,
and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
I am forgotten,
cut off from your care.
6 You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
into the darkest depths.
7 Your anger weighs me down;
with wave after wave you have engulfed me.
8 You have driven my friends away
by making me repulsive to them.
I am in a trap with no way of escape.
9 My eyes are blinded by my tears.
Each day I beg for your help, O Lord;
I lift my hands to you for mercy. (NLT)
Texts like this remind us just how realistic the Bible is. And just how sad it is that some Christians think their chief task in life is to whistle a happy tune to themselves and others. What the psalmist is describing here is something akin to what we call depression, which has been rightly called ‘the common cold of the emotions’. It is very common in Christian circles. Though like many ailments of the emotional or psychological type it is not talked about much.
Note the psalmist feels that God has placed him in the pit. This is not actually true, but those in the pits don’t always think clearly and frame their pain in terms of theological orthodoxy. Note too that the psalmist still cries out to God. He still believes in him even though he is in the pits and can’t identify him clearly. And note that the psalmist even figures God is displeased with him. And as for other people, they seem to be of no help either.
The only thing he can do is cry out to a God whom he knows is there but seems utterly absent. Not only does the psalmist experience this, but many great ones of the church have experienced what they term ‘the dark night of the soul’. It is not punishment. It is not uncommon. It is not completely explicable.
The consolation we have is that no depths are too deep for God. That Jesus our master and guide experienced utter forsakenness. This is not meant to cheer us up but rather meant to encourage us to cling to what we can be sure of in the midst of apparently all-encompassing uncertainty.