I really wanted to entitle this devotion Real Life Sucks, but I didn't want to offend anyone before they read on. So you wonder why I wrote it out in the first line? Because I think God agrees with me. I think He knows how bad it is for us when the little girl dies in a church bus accident. He feels our pain when there is not enough money to pay the bills at the end of the month and we still need to get our prescription filled. He gets how shamed we feel when we do the thing we said we would never do again. He is well aware of how hard it is down here. I was reminded of God’s realism when I read Psalm 88. It was during my devotional reading when I read for a word or a phrase that stands out to me that I can refer back to throughout the day.
I've been reading in the Psalms for quite some time now, and I am familiar with the Lament Psalms. They have provided an emotional connection to my complaints about life; however, they always turn at the end to give praise to God and remember His goodness. Psalm 88 shocked me. There’s no—but I will praise you. There is no remembering God’s goodness or God’s promises or anything. The Psalm simply expresses the Psalm writer’s deep disappointment in God for being aware of and a part of all the losses of his life. The theme of this Psalm written in my NIV Bible is “When there is no relief in sight.” God understands our deepest misery. And there is comfort in that. There is.
God ordained that included in His Word would be the lament and blame of Him for all the pain of a lifetime. We don't know for sure who wrote this Psalm. From the best we can tell it was one of the sons of Korah, sons given to give thanks to the Lord. Here are the words spoken about them from 1 Chronicles 25:5,
“All these were sons of Heman [Son of Korah] the king’s seer. They were given him through the promises of God to exalt him.”
One of these sons may have been the author of Psalm 88. One of these sons most likely lost a loved one prematurely. One of these sons knows what it is like to lay on his bed crying his eyes out in desperate desire to make the realities of this life go away. One of these sons felt what it is like to know darkness as his closest friend. And this son is dear to God. God feels his torment. He knows this son’s pain. He doesn't strike down the author for blaming Him for the losses of his life. Rather, God preserves his words in the book of Psalms. He keeps this Psalm for anyone who needs the comfort of acknowledging that this life is hard. The last words of the Psalm are:
“You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.”
We get to see an embodied display of God’s response to this Psalm in John 11. When Jesus arrives in Bethany, after Lazarus had died, we see Jesus Himself lamenting the grief that comes with the loss of a premature death. Two times His utter sorrow because of our painful realities are recorded. In John 11:36, “Jesus wept.” The shortest verse of the Bible, it is beloved by all children who are called on to memorize a certain number of verses to get their reward. Yet, it speaks volumes about the way God connects with our reality.
Even as Jesus walks to the tomb where He knows full well that He is going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he once again identifies with our pain. In verse 38 it says, “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.” Our God knows our pain. He gets it. He gives us permission to lament. He is with us in our pain. He is bigger than our pain. He will lead us to the other side of pain.