If you’re wounded, suffering and in pain, this is for you. In Psalm 88, the psalmist understands and identifies.
The psalmist articulated the right problem.
I love the psalmist because he’s honest about the pain in the world. He didn’t say everything is wonderful. He said, “Lord, it hurts and it hurts bad. I’m not fine and everybody knows I’m not fine. I just can’t keep at this anymore. I’ve had it.” If you have never prayed a prayer like that to God, you have never been honest with him. The psalmist understood the right problem.
I hate religion. Religion is that which allows us to put on armor and to lie to the rest of the world about how we are. While I’m not a prophet, I don’t throw rocks and I’m one of the greatest sinners I know, I do have a lover’s quarrel with the church. The most dishonest place on the face of the earth is the weekend worship service in most of the Evangelical churches in America.
I love the psalmist because he’s honest about the pain in the world.
I’m so tired of laughter at funerals, pretend purity in church, and dishonesty, I could die. I’ve decided that I don’t like religion a bit. (In fact, I asked the Lord about it and he said that he didn’t like it very much either.) We are in danger because of our arrogance and our elitism. We are simply not being honest with one another.
People may look beautiful and peaceful, without a care in the world; but the truth is, they are dying just like the rest of us. There are some who didn’t sleep at all last night. There are some who are just hoping and praying for help…and if you’re honest, you’re their answer.
It never seemed fair to me, but before we were ever born, two people—Adam and Eve—made the wrong choice and messed it up big time. Because they turned away from God, we now live in a fallen world. That means if you get 51%, you file it under “success.” There will be ants at picnics. Hate comes easily to us…it’s as natural as motherhood and apple pie. Life sometimes hurts and hurts really bad. We’re not Home yet.
There are many implications of the fall. One is that you’re not perfectible. Your pastor is not perfectible. I’m not perfectible. No one is perfectible. I have a note in the back of my Bible, “You wouldn’t be so shocked at your own sin if you didn’t have such a high opinion of yourself.” You and I are caught in a catch-22.
A working principle of the universe: When a dog plays checkers, you don’t criticize his game; you’re just glad he’s playing at all. In other words, you’re not perfectible and nobody else is.
The psalmist went to the right place—God.
Are you going through a tough time? Your friends may have stabbed you in the back. You may have been rejected and hated. But the fact is, they didn’t do it to you. God did it. So if you’re ticked, be ticked at him. God has ordained every circumstance and every moment of your life. God is God. God is sovereign.
But don’t get me wrong. God doesn’t say, “There is something about you that ticks me off, so I’m out to get you!” God bends down low to listen to the sound of our tears as they strike the ground. He joined us, comingling his tears with ours. Jesus didn’t die to keep you from dying; he died just the way you will die. Jesus wasn’t lonely to keep you from being lonely; he was lonely the way you’re lonely. Jesus wasn’t afraid to keep you from being afraid; he was afraid as you’re afraid. Everything in your life has first come through a nail-scarred hand.
There is a God who wrote the script. He is sovereign and controls every action in your life. So if you’re ticked, be ticked at God. After all, he is the only one who will understand it. If you have to yell, yell at God. He is the only one who will still accept you. When it hurts really bad, go to the right place, to God, and tell him.
The psalmist knew the right position—of praise.
The psalmist is asking, “Can a dead person praise God?” In other words, “Can I help you if I’m in the grave?” The psalmist recognizes that he is born to praise God.
You are here to praise God. That may not sound so great until you, as a Christian, start doing it. I first learned to praise from a group of Charismatics who prayed for my sick infant daughter and she got well in a miraculous way.
The more I praised, the better it was. I was like a baby tasting applesauce for the first time after a lot of yucky cereal. There was this sudden realization: “I was created for applesauce!” It is the same way for the Christian who has learned to praise God.
The psalmist understood that, when it hurts, you keep on praising. You may be angry, you may not be able to stand it, but you keep on praising simply because that is who you are. As a Christian, praise is how you define yourself. You were created to praise God.
You weren’t created for you. You were created for God. Even when it hurt really bad, the psalmist confirms the reality that he was called to praise.
The psalmist avoided the right clichés.
Take a look at the book of Job. Job’s friends were friends…that is, until they started talking. They looked at Job and things were really bad. Job is sick with disease, sitting on an ash heap, his children dead and his farm gone. The friends didn’t know what to say, so they said it. You read through what they say and it sounds somewhat cogent, making sense. Then God makes the judgment that they’re all twits.
The psalmist doesn’t say the first thing that comes to mind. He doesn’t rely on clichés. He doesn’t say silly things about God.
Don’t come to me when I’m hurting and say, “Don’t forget Romans 8:28.” Instead hug me and tell me you know it hurts.
The psalmist remembered the right answers.
The psalmist is not a man bereft of knowledge of God. He is a man who knew God’s answers in the past. Never doubt in the dark what God has taught you in the light. That is true…no matter how much it hurts.
The psalmist was hurting, angry and wounded. He didn’t see any way out, but he said, “God, I’m here because you’re my resource and you’re always adequate.” Once you see truth, you can’t unsee it. We are called to remember.
F.W. Faber wrote: “We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and the wet, in the thunder and the lightning, in the cold and the dark. Wait, and He will come. He never comes to those who do not wait…When He comes, go with Him, but go slowly, fall a little behind; when He quickens His pace, be sure of it before you quicken yours. When He slackens, slacken at once and do not be slow only, but silent, very silent, for He is God.”
Time to Draw Away
Read Psalm 88 & Psalm 23
Are you in pain? Go to God…without censoring a thing. (He really can take it.) In God, there is help, hope and rescue. He is your loving Father. He holds you in the palm of his hand. He can be trusted. The Gospel is good news for strugglers.