Saturday, October 16, 2010

Psalm 88

I have been reading the Book of Psalms for about, 88 days now.  Every couple of days I come across a Psalm that, I think, could easily be my favorite one; every couple of days, I find another.  Psalm 88 is no exception, but for the fact that, as far as I can tell, it is like no other.  Just read it. 

This is a song, Folks -- a song.  Personally, I've never read any song in the Bible that remotely resembles Staind, but this is probably as close as it gets.  During my "darker days," I was a huge fan -- Staind is sexy fueled by angry and depressed.  My favorite group since my teens has been Pink Floyd -- more neurotic than sexy, but always depression resulting in rage.  I identify -- to a point.  That point is where the only solution is rage, violence, hatred, or simply more depression.  My faith refuses (Thank God!) to allow there are no solutions. 

Psalm 88 is unlike any other in that there appears to be no solutions, no end to the despair.  Other Psalms, for instance, cry out to God for redemption, mercy, His loving forgiveness; before the Psalm is over, the author is rejoicing in the assurance God is near, He will save, and all is well.  While these songs and ruminations may be uplifting in the short-term, what about those who feel untold despair?  What about those who are living with pain and depression every day, hour after hour?  What about those who really do have no way to change their circumstances, or no one to advocate their release?  With no disrespect, do you think ten verses later they're whistling "Victory is Mine?"  Sometimes despair is a season.  Sometimes loneliness is a pit.  Sometimes, ten verses later, our circumstances are no better than they were when we opened the Word, and our hearts are just as heavy.  We are human.  We worry, we fear, we grieve and we fail.  Then, as Christians, we worry, fear and grieve over our failings as Christians.  The questions and doubts we feel do not coincide with what we know to be true.  Why can't we just feel it?  I believe this Psalm is for us.

Just look at verse 1: "O Lord, the God who saves me..."  First of all, would this psalmist be speaking to or writing to a God he doesn't believe would listen?  Secondly, the psalmist says "the God who saves me."  Not "saved," past tense, as in the one who redeemed him at some point, but saves -- present tense, and implying timelessness.  He knows God is there; I believe he even knows God will eventually rescue him, but for right now... this is how he feels.

Verse 5:  "I am... like the slain who lie in the grave."  Not dead -- feeling like it, maybe even wishing it perhaps, but not dead.

Verses 9 & 13:  Still, "I call to you, O Lord, every day."  "I cry to you for help, O Lord."  Why, if he has no faith?  Why, if he truly believes God has abandoned him?  Why, if God will not save?

Lastly, the psalmist himself:  Does anyone get that his name is Heman? From what I gather, Heman means "faithful."  I don't see this as being lost on him at all.  I see pleas cried out and tears shed by a lonely, desperate, but faithful individual.  Pleas and tears recorded by a loving, faithful God, just for me, a sometimes lonely, desperate, but faithful individual.  Commiseration through the ages.  Assurance that others have been where I've been, felt what I've felt, expressed it without fear of reprisal, and remained faithful, even when it lasted for a season.  

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