This morning I read Psalm 88 again. When I say ‘again’, I mean it comes around regularly in my daily readings.
This Psalm always unnerves me. Sure, I t starts with a voice of praise, acknowledging God as the true rescuer, but that’s about the only positive thing we read. Heman, the writer, then takes us downstairs through trouble and difficulty into the lowest pit and the darkest depths (v.6). Heman reckons those dark times are no chance occurrence, or a string of bad luck. It’s confronting to hear him say all those terrible things are the work of God (v.6-8). I am not sure whether he’s got that right. Maybe he’s just trying to rationalise all the pain in his life and this is his best shot. Whatever the reason I can tell you it takes guts to say it the way he does.
Thankfully, I haven’t been through depression. I’ve seen some pretty torrid times, though. I don’t think anyone can do thirty something years in congregational ministry and not encounter some rejection, betrayal, and most certainly some tears. Don’t get me wrong: I love pastoral ministry, and generally it loved me. But there are valleys and sometimes they are very dark and very deep. And at those times it could be hard to get motivated, or to see the good things around me. I could get irritable and negative, too true. But I never felt depressed.
For plenty of people the Black Dog is a reality. From the little I understand, it can be ever present, very dark, and hard to shake. That’s where my mind goes when I read Psalm 88. The writer may well be depressed, and the comfort of God seems absent. He blames God for everything he’s experiencing. He calls out to God, but he doesn’t get any answer.
I wonder how God felt, hearing this cry in Ps 88? My best guess is that it wasn’t anger. Maybe more like heartbreak, or compassion, or He may have just sat with Heman in his black hole and wept with him.
God wanted us to know it’s OK to not be OK. That when we’re the un-ok-est of all, that he’s still with us. That we can weep, and rail against him, and shake our fist, turn our back, throw the kitchen sink at him, and he’s still there. Faithful and caring and loving as always.
If we believe what we say about the Scriptures, God also treasured these hard words of Heman, and preserved them for us to read. Perhaps God wanted us to know it’s OK to not be OK. That when we’re the un-ok-est of all, that he’s still with us. That we can weep, and rail against him, and shake our fist, turn our back, throw the kitchen sink at him, and he’s still there. Faithful and caring and embracing as always.
This is our God, right? He is with us through the the darkest valleys. He knows, the deepest valley of all is to be utterly forsaken and bereft of his nearness. He knows that because Jesus entered that darkness, and conquered it, we never have to go there. Not ever.
Heman, it may feel like he’s not there, that he doesn’t love you, that he’s throwing all hell at you. But really, he’s still with you, even when you can see him, or hear him, or feel him. It may seem like the darkness is your closest friend, but really, it’s God. He’s there, right there, in the darkness with you. He’s never going to let you go.
[I have to apologise for not hitting the blog that much. It’s been a time of adjustment. Hopefully I’ll be a little more regular now – Dave]