"But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you."
I've always felt a special connection to the Psalms. Whether they're songs of praise or lament, the Psalmists' words are relatable and raw. Now, in the deepest season of grief I've ever experienced, I'm spending some time revisiting the laments.
For some context before I begin my rambling, this past year has been one of the most difficult of my life. My heart's desire has always been to have children and lots of them, and in the span of a little over a year, I have been pregnant four times: I have miscarried multiple times, given birth to my miracle baby, and then buried him six weeks later.
Throughout my son Noah’s life, both in and out of the womb, God worked miracles: He sustained my son’s life throughout my pregnancy, orchestrated his emergency c-section at just the right time and place, helped him survive six surgeries (many of which many of his doctors didn’t think he would survive), and gave him a personality that joyfully played and fought even when life was hard. God faithfully worked in Noah’s life. He drew others to Himself through Noah’s witness and demonstrated his loving power and comfort. And, even on the worst night of my life when my miracle baby died, God was still with me, orchestrating every event for His glory.
Yet, despite knowing all this, life still hurts. I am still walking through an incredibly difficult time in my life, waiting for God’s response and grieving, so I’ve turned my eyes towards the Psalms of lament and to the reminder that God is always good.
Psalm 88 in particular has stuck out to me. The Psalmist writes:
1 Lord, you are the God who saves me;day and night I cry out to you. 2 May my prayer come be fore you; turn your ear to my cry. 3 I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. 5 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. 6 You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. 7 Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. 8 You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; 9 my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you. 10 Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you? 11 Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? 12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion? 13 But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? 15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. 17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. 18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.
Yes, I know. It's bleak, but it's definitely real.
And I feel like the pain is so relatable. It's hard when you cry out to God for salvation from a specific sort of suffering, and God doesn't answer how you want. Or when God miraculously answers some of your prayers for healing, but not all. It's confusing. It's hard. And the Psalmist willingly pours out his questions to God: "What's the purpose of letting me suffer like this? How can I do your will if I'm dead? Will your faithfulness be declared in the grave?"
And then, I think of the mercy of reading this psalm from a New Testament perspective where we know the end of the story. We can know that these questions are not simply rhetorical questions: we know that in Christ the answer is "Yes!"
Yes, you work wonders for the dead.
Yes, departed spirits will rise up to praise you.
Yes, your faithful love will overcome the grave!
Your faithfulness will even be declared in Abaddon!
Your wonders will be known even in the darkest night!
Your righteousness will be seen even in the land of oblivion.
The thing is that from the Psalmist's finite perspective as he wrote this stream of rhetorical questions, the implied answer probably felt like a blazing no. He felt like God had failed him. God's will seemed cruel. But from a heavenly perspective, looking at the Psalmist's words hundreds of years later, we know that we are promised salvation in the life to come, we know that our purpose doesn't cease to be when we encounter the grave, we know that God can speak his faithfulness, his wonders, and his righteousness through the darkest times.
This psalm is a helpful reminder that I don't know or comprehend God's entire sovereign plan. I don't know whether I will get the answers I want on this earth, but I do know that God is faithful and good and he is working all things together for the good of those who love him. Above all things, He is faithful. Above all things, He is good.
Written By: Mary Cumbie Prince