Our Psalm today, 88, is probably the darkest of all of them, and therefore to our ears, it will feel like the strangest worship song ever. But obviously it is one that honors God and is also one that can really help us in times like we are going through as a culture. Lament is part of the journey with God that is necessary. If you know me very well, you probably know that I don’t do things like lament well. I don’t do sad well. Years ago, a counselor tried to help me with that, but I don’t think we got very far. The guy was kind of a downer, so I didn’t stay with him long. Even as I talked about sad times with him, he was like, “Why are you smiling?” It’s actually a real problem for me. Some of you do sad well, but I think most us don’t. Lament is something more profound though than just being sad, but even in this cultural moment we are in, if we can’t learn to lament well, to sit in the anger and hurt and frustration and identify with our African American brothers and sisters, we will not be able to move toward the changes needed with fire and with depth. Lament is necessary right now, as it is in other times of life when we go through really difficult times. So, I’m going to read the psalm penned by Heman, as he lays out the darkest worship song in the Bible. As we listen, be open to how it taps into dark times we are going through now or you have gone through in the past.
Psalms 88:1-18 “Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. 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. You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
So, why does God not take offense? If I were God, I would. I might just use a lightning bolt to end this guy’s little tirade. But God not only doesn’t do that, he puts this song in the Bible as an example of worship songs that are worshipful to him. Why? Because God doesn’t expect us to always maintain good perspective. He knows we will lose perspective in a broken world, and he is okay with that.