“[God}, You have removed lover and friend far from me.
My acquaintances are in darkness.”
When people tell me their favorite story from the Bible, or ask me to read something, no one says, “Read Psalm 88, I find it so comforting.”
The writer starts with words I hear friends and patients saying in really hard moments: “O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before you.” The writer then describes what he feels physically and relationally. He tells God what he’s done to ask for relief, and describes his sense that God is allowing the pain and the feeling of isolation from everyone.
And then, when we are wanting the story to turn out well, to end with a “But God, you made everything okay and now I praise you,” the story ends where this post started, with the writer all alone.
This is not a happy psalm.
But it is a true psalm. It’s an accurate description of the feelings of a person who trusts God and feels rejected.
That’s why I am so grateful that this song exists. So that I can say to myself and others, “you are not alone in these feelings.”
I am aware that this is not the end of the story. I sit with people and talk with people who, having lived and said words like this, live and say other words. But these words are not condemned by God for an unbecoming lack of faith. And I invite us to not condemn them either.
Here is an organ setting of this psalm.
Here are Dr Lee Warren, Pastor Dennis McDonald, and I talking about loss and comfort.