No Relief in Sight
(13) But I cry to you for help, Yahweh. In the morning my prayer comes before you. (14) Why, Lord, do you reject my soul and hide your face from me? (15) Afflicted and close to death from my youth onwards, I have suffered your dread. I am undone. (16) Your wrath has swept over me. Your terrors have annihilated me. (17) They surround me like a flood all day long. They completely encircle me. (18) You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me. Darkness is my companion.
Four phrases in this segment remind us of themes mentioned previously in the psalm. First, “I cry to you” (vs. 13) echoes the psalmist’s statements, “I have cried” (vs. 1), “my cry” (vs. 2), and “I call to you daily” (vs. 9). Next, “Your wrath has swept over me” (vs. 16) takes us back to the complaint, “Your wrath lies heavily on me” (vs. 7). The phrase, “close to death” (vs. 15), recalls the author’s descriptions of his despair (vss. 3-6 & 10-12). Finally, the psalmist’s lament over being alienated from his dearest friend (vs. 18) echoes his earlier expressed sense of isolation (vs. 8).
The psalm ends without resolution. We long for the psalmist to give us something positive, some shred of hope. Instead, we are left in the gloom and darkness of despair. Why? At least one reason comes to mind. With this kind of conclusion, those who are enduring a similar sense of abandonment and isolation can say, “This reflects exactly how I feel, authored by one who fully understands what I have been experiencing.”
I. I cry to Yahweh for help. (13)
II. I question God’s purposes in my affliction. (14)
III. I bemoan the despair in which I find myself. (15-18)
Though questioning Yahweh’s goodness, we still cry out to him in the depths of our despair.
The Old Testament character best known for the afflictions which he had to endure was the patriarch, Job. He had lost everything, possessions, family, and then his own health in a series of trials God allowed Satan to rain down upon him. Although God never answered his “why” questions nor ever offered an explanation for his sufferings, Job received a revelation of God’s majesty and power which he could never have known apart from what he endured.
Although Psalm 88 remains dark and depressing throughout its entire length, the psalmist never gives up on God. He keeps on crying out to Yahweh no matter how awful he feels nor how hopeless his situation seems. The author of Psalm 73 asks a question that can encourage us when we feel trapped in the depths of despair: “Whom have I in heaven but you?” The obvious answer is that there is no one to whom we can turn apart from God when we are experiencing the worst that life can throw at us. As bad as our present circumstances may seem, as isolated and as abandoned as we may feel, Job’s story bears witness to the fact that, if we endure, God will eventually come through for us. Until that happens, we must keep on crying out to him and keep holding on desperately until that relief appears.