This introduction serves as an invitation to join in an on-going journey of discovery. You will not need to buy tickets nor make travel plans. All that's required is your Bible and a quiet place to read and meditate. Together we'll explore the Book of Psalms, Israel’s hymnal and longest collection of poetry.  

Psalm 88:8-12

An Anguished Cry

(8) You have removed my acquaintances far from me. You have made me repugnant to them. (I am) shut in and cannot escape. (9) My eye grows dim because of affliction. I call to you, Yahweh, every day. I spread out my hands to you. (10) Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? (Selah) (11) Is your steadfast love recounted in the grave or your faithfulness in the place of destruction (Abaddon)? (12) Are your wonders made known in the darkness or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

Only one repetition can be found in this segment, the noun, “wonders” (first in vs. 10 and then again in vs. 12). Most notable about these verses is the series of rhetorical questions the psalmist asks God (vss. 10-12). He is not seeking information. Rather he appears to be arguing as he prays that he is more valuable to God alive rather than dead even though, in his depression, he is actually feeling more dead than alive.

I.  My anguish: I am deeply troubled in spite of praying.  (8 & 9)
II.  My argument: I am worth more alive than dead  (10-12)

From the depths of loneliness and affliction we plead with God to restore us to the land of the living.

Even though the psalmist prays as if he has died and is speaking from the grave, he expresses himself quite eloquently. His meditations in the midst of depression demonstrate that great beauty and creativity can emerge from the depths of despair. William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) experienced this same kind of anguish throughout his difficult life. Born in 1731, he became one of England’s most beloved poets and hymn-writers. Although a fervent evangelical believer, he constantly endured black periods of debilitating depression and even tried to take his own life several times in his darkest moments. Out of his struggle emerged some of our most famous and most beloved hymns. Here are two examples of his genius:

God Moves in a Mysterious Way
“God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. / He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. // Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread / are big with mercy, and shall break with blessings on your head. // Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace. / Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face. // Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain. / God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.”

O for a Closer Walk with God
“O for a closer walk with God, a calm and heavenly frame, / a light to shine upon the road that leads me to the Lamb! // Where is that blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord? / Where is the soul-refreshing view of Jesus and his Word? // What peaceful hours I once enjoyed! How sweet their memory still! / But they have left an aching void the world can never fill. // The dearest idol I have known, whate’er that idol be, / help me to tear it from thy throne, and worship only thee.”

Psalm 88:13-18

Psalm 88:1-7