When I was a child, the color of Advent was purple, it was to remind us that as we prepare for the coming of Christ, we are penitent. While the colors for the season change, the thought of taking up a practice to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ is still a good idea. One of those practices might be to pray through the psalms. Yet, I would understand if you skipped over reading Psalm 88. Psalm 88 is maybe the most relentlessly dark of all the psalms. It just plunges us straight into the darkness.
There are many today throughout the world and throughout history who have been right there where all seems like everything has gone wrong. And so it is necessary for us to go prayerfully to this moment of complaint. Psalm 88 just says to God, You have put me in the depths, You have overwhelmed me, You have made my friends and beloved shun me, Your dreadful assaults destroy me.
But that is not all the psalmist says. He starts by acknowledging God as the God of my salvation. This is the one thing he can cling to, you are the rescuing God, the God of the Exodus, and I am trusting in You to save me. You might be living through Psalm 88, and if you are all you can do is cling to the God of your salvation. We don’t shrug our shoulders and say bad stuff happens but God is a long way off and can’t do anything about it, nor do we just say let’s leave this all behind.
The Biblical story is about the God of Life who strangely takes us at times through the dark night, through Gethsemane, into the dark pit, into the trial, out to the horrible hill. This is the way of Jesus who ended up crying out – God why have you left me. Sometimes God’s people are called to go this way, and it is by praying, like praying Psalm 88, that hidden in Jesus himself, this prayer speaks not just for ourselves but for all of God’s world. Through His life and death now all who are held in darkness and death will be held by the rescuing love of God because the answer to the psalmist questions in verse 10-12 is a resounding “Yes!” Yes God works wonders for the dead. Yes, God’s steadfast love is declared even in the Grave. Yes, God’s wonders are known even in the darkness, and to those who have forgotten.
Sometimes we will just stay in the pain and boldly say – you are the God of my salvation, you are not far away, even though I can’t see you, I will cling to you. You are God in this, somewhere, please give me your grace to just stay faithful to you, for I know that you will do whatever it takes to hold on to the God who raises the dead. This is our hope, the hope we have that reaches out from a place of darkness.