In a previous post, I discussed how some psalms are happy and describe a world that is ordered, bright, and rooted in God. That is all very well and true – except when it’s not.
It would be insincere of us, as Christians who are to be honest with God (“I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24), to not acknowledge the darkness, loneliness, and isolation that is ever lurking, sometimes present. Providentially, there is a body of psalms that do speak to this pain and give words for us when our own words are too much to bear.
Two particular psalms jump out at me. Psalm 88 is one of the few psalms that concludes without an expressed hope. We are in the Pit, and no one comes to our rescue. “My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, and darkness is my only companion” (vs. 19). What is especially intriguing about this psalm is that God’s voice is never heard. The usual give and take between psalmist and Most High is absent.
In the vein of being honest, we must acknowledge that sometimes God does not answer when we cry. We are left alone. But what is most striking, and what I find to be the holiest insight into this psalm, is that the psalmist never ceases to pray. Unlike we, who are tempted to run after other gods or other powers to alleviate our pains, the psalmist never gives up on God.
Psalm 137 is a different animal altogether. As Courtney Drew pointed out, this is the saddest passage in the entire bible. The Israelites have seen their home, Jerusalem, destroyed. The Temple is no more. They are exiles in a foreign and strange land. (This reminds me of Lord Denethor demanding Pippin to sing him a song. The hobbit replies that he has no songs fit for such an occasion. The Israelites say the same in vs. 4: “How shall we sing the Lord’s song upon an alien soil?”)
Finally, I must address the conclusion of Psalm 137 as the psalmist describes as blessed any who dash the children of the Edomites against rocks. Okay. Yes. That’s terrible. But notice that the psalmist is not going about smashing in babies’ heads, he only says such a terrible thing.
God is big enough to take all of what we say – the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are allowed to rail against God, against our neighbor, and to murmur all sorts of complaints. Do they sound awful sometimes? You betcha.
But if our prayers to God are not our safety valve, our place to vent, then where shall we turn?