1 O Lord, God of my salvation,
at night, when I cry out before you,
2 let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
5 like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you?
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
18 You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;
my companions are in darkness.
In my Doctor of Ministry studies, I had the opportunity to attend two weeks of classes led by a respected Old Testament scholar named Dr. Walter Brueggemann. He recounted a conversation with the author of the novel Sophie’s Choice.
Brueggemann was curious at how the novelist had inserted a reading of Psalm 88 into the dialogue between two characters. As a Bible scholar, he wondered if the novelist had known that he had quoted one of the few songs in the book of Psalms that had absolutely no resolution. The novelist responded that he had not gone that deep into the structure of the Psalms. He had used the words of Psalm 88 because they were really depressing.
The editors of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible call Psalm 88 a Prayer for Help in Despondency.
Sometimes all we can do is cry – and cry out to God, for consolation doesn’t seem to come at the moment.
God, when I feel myself in the dark night of the soul, I trust that you hear my cries. As I hurt and long for help, hear me. Let my words come to your ears. Amen.