One of my biggest frustrations with western Christianity is our tendency to fake spiritual maturity. We use theological words and phrases that sound impressive – like kingdom, worship, and die to self – but they have little meaning in our daily lives.
Or, a pastor or Christian friend will ask us how we’re doing. Our default reaction is to lie about our situation or at least spin the struggle to make it appear as if we’re handling it in a more mature manner than we actually are.
Here’s the problem with that mentality: sick people don’t get better by pretending they’re not sick. Sick people find help and healing by admitting they have an illness and seeking out the help of a professional doctor.
PSALMS OF HONESTY
I’ve said this before, but I love the Psalms - I think they’re in the Bible to keep us honest about life. In the Psalms, you have the “nitty gritty” of the Christian life on display in almost every passage.
It’s commonplace to find the author crying out in pain, questioning the goodness and presence of God, and wanting to throw the towel in. The people in the Psalms aren’t hiding their pain and suffering.
In the midst of that honesty, though, you’ll find an encouraging theme – every Psalm ends on a high note or with a comforting truth. Let’s do a case study and look at the first 10 Psalms:
- “The way of the wicked will perish” (1:6)
- “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (2:12)
- “Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people” (3:8)
- “For you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (4:8)
- “For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield” (5:12)
- “All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled” (6:10)
- “I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High” (7:17)
- “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (8:9)
- “Let the nations know that they are but men!” (9:20)
- “So that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more” (10:18)
You see the pattern? Each one ends with the something refreshing: the wicked receive justice, the Lord receives praise and adoration, or the author finds comfort and safety in the arms of God. The Psalms are honest, but in the end, God and His people win.
There’s an outlier to my above case study. Psalm 88 ends in a very troubling way: “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.” I personally like how the NIV translates that last verse: “Darkness is my closest friend.”
Why would God ever put this ugly, depressive, and utterly hopeless Psalm in the Bible? Why doesn’t the author find peace and refuge and comfort at the end like the rest?
You see, there will be seemingly hopeless moments in your life. There will be seasons when you don’t think anything good can result. Unlike the author in Psalm 4, you won’t be able to say, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
TIME TO RESPOND
What do you do in those moments, when your world comes crashing down and all hope seems lost? Maybe you will tragically and inexplicably lose a loved one; maybe you don’t know anything about what the future holds; maybe your dreams will be shattered and lost forever.
One day, you'll face a Psalm 88 moment. If you don’t, God will place you next to someone who is. I’ve found there are 3 ways to think about life through the lens of the Gospel during these times:
1. Cry out to God
The Bible encourages you to ask hard questions. Scripture is filled with people who faced tragedy and cried out to God. Go to the Ruler of it all and don’t be afraid to ask what’s happening.
2. Draw near to Jesus.
Jesus is a closer Friend than darkness. He faced the harshest realities of life and the ultimate rejection of God. He knows what you’re going through, and He sympathizes with your suffering.
3. Reach out for help.
Stop faking spiritual maturity! Run to the body of Christ and admit that your life is a mess. In fact, if you’re in a small group or Bible study this week, I would encourage you to hijack the discussion on what you liked about Sunday’s sermon and say, “Here’s what I’m dealing with; I can’t face it on my own any longer; I need help!”
Psalm 88 is, in fact, a hopeful Psalm, precisely because God included it in His hope-filled Book. You can face the darkest realities of your life because your Father is sovereign and Jesus is your closest Friend.