When Darkness Is Your Closest Friend
by J.D. Greear
Psalm 88 is one of the most disturbing expressions of despair in the entire Bible. Chronic pain, personal betrayal, unthinkable loneliness, darkness unto death. Many of the psalms are laments, but they nearly always end with the lament swallowed up in God’s victory. But not Psalm 88. It actually gets worse as it goes along. The final line sums up the dismal tone: “Darkness is my closest friend.” How can one of the psalms, chosen to be in God’s perfect Word, end like that?
Because sometimes our lives feel like that. The book of Psalms presents us with the enigma of the Christian life. Everyone will go through chapters in life—sometimes long ones—that feel like Psalm 88. So what do you do when you feel like life will never get better?
Pray Psalm 88 to God. It’s OK to be honest with Him about your pain and your troubles—even your anger and your doubts. You aren’t going to scare God away with your honest prayers of pain. He’s big enough to handle them. In fact, He welcomes these prayers. And ironically, in giving voice to your hopelessness, you are saying, “God, somehow I think your love is greater than all of this.” Psalm 88 is recorded the way it is—unresolved, confused, and painful—to show us that even in our darkest hours, God is still the author of our story.
We all have seasons of Psalm 88. Some of us will stay there for years. Some of us may even reach the end of our earthly days without any resolution to our greatest pains. Be honest with God about it. But don’t stop there.
Preach Psalm 89 to yourself. Turn the page to Psalm 89, and we see how darkness and despair cannot have the final say: “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations” (v. 1). After praying Psalm 88 to God, we must preach Psalm 89 to ourselves. Of course, Psalm 89 “faith” that ignores Psalm 88 pain isn’t faith at all. We can’t sing about deliverance from suffering until we’ve truly walked through that suffering.
But we have to sing. When life is falling apart, it may be easier to pray a lament to God than to cling to the promises of God’s faithfulness. But both are valid. So when you’re in a Psalm 88 season, don’t abandon the principles of hope and belief from Psalm 89. When you feel like darkness is your closest friend, choose to believe that God is with you. When you feel like life is spiraling out of control, choose to believe that God is still in control. When you feel like life will never get better, choose to believe that God is still good.
Sing to the Lord and make known His faithfulness in your life—even before you can feel it. Keep on praying Psalm 88 to God, and keep on preaching Psalm 89 to yourself.