This article on Psalm 88 looks at a believer who sometimes feels deep terror, sorrow and utter loneliness.

Source: Clarion, 2005. 2 pages.

Psalm 88 - The Darkness is My Closest Friend

You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.

Psalm 88:18

The Psalms are often shocking in their honesty. They show us that sometimes God’s children have difficult lives. Now of all the Psalms, Psalm 88 is the darkest. Unlike the other Psalms, this one does not end on a note of hope, praise, or thankfulness. Heman concludes his Psalm with the words, “The darkness is my closest friend.”

A friend is someone with whom you share deeply. Friends are faithful when others are not. They celebrate the joys of life with you and mourn with you in your grief. In this Psalm Heman concludes by saying that the darkness is his closest friend. He says this because his soul is full of trouble (v 3). He is also estranged from others (v 4-5). This isolation is explained in verse 8 where he says, “You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them.” In verse 18 he picks up on this again, “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me.”

On top of this he is also isolated and estranged from God. In verse 6 he tells us that the Lord’s wrath lies heavily upon him. He’s overwhelmed by God’s anger and it puts him in the darkest depths. In verse 14 he takes it a step further, saying that God has rejected him and hid his face from him. And in verse 16 he says that God’s terrors have destroyed him.

Heman experiences a deep terror and sorrow, and is utterly alone. There is no one who really understands, no one who really cares, no one who can help. When he looks at his life he says, “Yeah, I’ve got one friend. His name is darkness.” He is living in his own private little hell, and no one really cares.

This is an appalling Psalm because it describes the life of a believer. Psalm 88 was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and included in the Bible. God is telling us here that even though He comes to us with a message of hope, peace, and joy, these are not the experience of every believer. Sometimes Christians suffer intensely in a broken world. Some Christians are depressed and suicidal; they feel abandoned by family and friends and even by God Himself. Some Christians feel that the darkness is their only friend.

If you have ever felt that the darkness is your closest friend, the Lord is saying to you: that does not mean that you are not a Christian. Psalm 88 confronts us with the reality that being in a covenant relationship with God doesn’t mean we will escape the brokenness of a fallen world.

So how are we to move forward if we find ourselves in Heman’s situation? In the first place we should appreciate the darkness of this Psalm. Those people who are deeply depressed or troubled can find real solace in this Psalm because it gives an accurate portrayal of their feelings. By including this Psalm in the Bible, God shows us that He really does understand the most desperate cries of the human heart. Even if there is no one else who understands, He does.

We should also notice that Heman takes his darkness to the Lord. In verse 1 he says, “O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.” God is teaching us here that if we are severely depressed, suicidal, anxious, or if we are surrounded by terrors, then we can take that to Him and He will help us. This is an important thing to bear in mind. Sometimes we face the seductive temptation to turn our back on God. If we have sinned terribly or if we are severely depressed, we can think that the Lord doesn’t care about us any longer. But in Psalm 88 God teaches us there is still hope. Our Father hears with patience and mercy the most desolate cries that come to Him. He never minimizes or mocks or misunderstands our struggle. The darkness doesn’t blind his eyes, or prevent his care. The Lord wants us to understand that there is no thought so distorted, no emotion so powerful, no circumstance so horrible, no action so twisted that it stands outside the reach of the Redeemer and his grace. He promises, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

The reason God hears our cries is because of his Son Jesus Christ. When Christ was in this world, He suffered very intensely. He too was despised and mocked. He too was abandoned by family and friends. He experienced darkness and terror much deeper than what we experience, for He was subject to the full wrath of God against sin. Our Lord Jesus was rejected and forsaken by his Father. The Bible tells us that Christ has suffered and been tempted in every way as we are (Hebrews 4:15). But He came through his darkest hour victorious. He defeated sin and the devil and so is able to set his people free. It is for Christ’s sake that God will hear us and help us.

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