“When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” (86:7)
Indeed, psalm 88 is one heckofa distress call.
“my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you.” (88:9)
We, westerners, are not sure what to do with grief. When we hear about the death of our friend’s loved one, we get real awkward and tend to say nothing, fearing we’ll say the wrong thing. We don’t know how to comfort those who mourn, besides perhaps sending a casserole. What’s worse, is when the death is of our own loved one, and we don’t know what to do with all the casseroles.
Grief sweeps in at the most in opportune times. You can carve out an entire afternoon to cry and not manage a single tear. You can take two weeks “vacation”, then completely crumple in the middle of an important business presentation. Grief is a savage beast like that.
In the Bible, I see our ancient predecessors tearing their clothes and sitting in ashes, when they grieve. The whole neighborhood gets together to wail loudly. It’s as if the horrific nature of death demands a clamorous parade of corporate sobbing. Why, then, do I attempt to contain it in a few quickly wiped away tears?
Many of the psalms make me uncomfortable with their deep echos of hopelessness: “Darkness is my closest friend”?! Is that the sort of thing someone who knows God should say?!
Tear your clothes before the Lord. Scream, “I have nothing!” Question everything. Do not accept death, it was never intended for you.
My best times with the Lord are usually when I’m naked. Maybe whilst streaking or skinny dipping, or maybe just in the shower. What is between me and my Creator? What am I hiding behind? Nothing. I can’t divert the conversation elsewhere, I can’t distract myself with things or other people. It’s just me and Him.
We live in a very broken world. Unspeakable horrors and death happen every second, around the globe. Remembering the best and only hope we have is Our Creator is a true act of worship. Now that my life is inseparably intertwined with the lives of refugees, I need to make a habit of grief. Healthy grief. Good grief, if you will. Psalms grief.
I’m going to go to the beach in the middle of the night, take off my clothes, cry and scream into the waves and say:
“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.
Are Your wonders known in the place of darkness, or Your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?” (88:1-3, 12)
I know He will meet me there, and I think it will be deeply therapeutic.