O LORD, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!
For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape; my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together.
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.
After reading the entire Psalm, I thought it was quite different. I mean, I don’t think there are many other Psalms quite like it – without a happy ending. Without what we say in Tagalog, a ‘kabig’, or a turn back to the brighter side (in fact, if you notice, it’s only at the start where the Psalmist exhorts in praise, as in ‘God of my salvation’).
The Psalm was indicated to be written by a certain Heman the Ezrahite, who is mentioned in 1 Kings 4:31 as one of the men whom Solomon surpassed in wisdom – and I suppose this implies that he had a degree of wisdom, himself. We also derive from 1 Chronicles 2:6 that he belongs to the tribe of Judah. The Psalm itself was known as a ‘Maskil’ – the ESV further elaborates by saying that this piece had some ‘musical or liturgical’ purpose.
The reason I bring this all up is probably just to say that whoever wrote Psalm 88 knew what he was writing about – I’m making the assumption that Heman wrote it in his wisdom, more intentional than impulsive, possibly emotional but more likely deliberate in detail; And it isn’t as if it’s just an article like this one I’m writing – not only was it deliberate and intentional, but it was laid out as a song. A composition.
It does feel like that sometimes, doesn’t it? Rather, we feel like this some times – when all that occupies our minds is the affliction and the negative that we are going through, much so to a point that we are able to write about all of it down to the smallest details. And it may sound like complaining, but it couldn’t be helped, simply because it’s all that’s in our minds.
But here’s the thing – I think that even before we dive into the Psalm any deeper, there’s already something to learn here. I think that Heman certainly was wise – for he could have easily just confided with a friend and they could have talked things out; or, well, maybe not, because he does write that ‘my beloved and my friend’ shun him. He could have written what he wrote in lesser eloquence, or he could have kept his composition to himself – as in, a journal.
Instead, we see that somehow, this made its way to the 150 other Psalms in the compilation – only to say, or at least for me to gather this: There will be times that all that’s in our minds would be negative, down to the point that we literally question God… and I suppose, that to be intentional about writing all about it helps, just to let it all out, at the very least. And perhaps we would do good to write all this, without happy endings or a line of hope – for even without said silver linings in the same said composition, and even without a follow-up Psalm which would finally express and testify how we’ve been rescued and raised up, we have at least fulfilled the message of this Psalm: That we are so fragile, and we have less control over ourselves and over this fallen reality – less than what we assume we have, at least.
It’s an exercise in humility. Perhaps Heman wrote what he wrote, with all its negativity, only to indirectly highlight the greatness and goodness of our God. He writes of his afflictions and his loneliness to point out that he has the problem, and he does not have the solution, a fact so humbling that he is rendered speechless at the notion of hope.
Sometimes what matters is that we just trust God with what we feel, and what we see, and what we have in our minds. Christ did say for us to cast all of our burdens upon him. He does calls out to those who are heavy-laden; they have much to unload, and much in their hearts to overflow. And see, there it is.
This is Heman casting his burden. This is Heman coming to God, heavy-laden… and surely, even generations before Christ was born and walked and lived and breathed with us, surely he got his rest.
Friends, whether we are going through the good times or the bad moments, we would do well for ourselves to allow our hearts and minds to flow. And let’s not make a secret of what we feel, especially when we know what we know – that is, that Christ paid such a great and dear price out of His love for us, if only we would be reconciled to our Creator; so reconciled that we can literally run to His throne of grace, calling the LORD our dear and loving heavenly Father.
Our own fathers, bless their souls, may or may not be capable of listening to anything that’s overwhelming us, and/or everything we think is important – but that’s the thing. Even before Christ lay down His life for us, He already told us that we have a heavenly Father, the Father of all Fathers – and Peter further validates the love and care our God has for us by saying we could cast our anxieties on Him, because He DOES care for us. Other translations say ‘He is always thinking about us’, and I think that’s beautiful.
Now, of course, this isn’t to put our earthly fathers in a bad light – it’s only to magnify our heavenly Father, whom we now know is willing and able to listen to us… and I dare say, He does read between the lines, reading all that details of what we want to say down to the very innermost part of our hearts… and I do believe He responds, not according to our flawed thinking and expectations, but according to His great love, wisdom and mercy.
And… perhaps, that’s all that we need to know.
So go ahead and let it all out. God is our Father who listens.
Oh, if He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders
I know, my brother, that He will carry you!
Oh, if He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders
I know, my sister, that He will carry you!
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