In the Office: A Call in the Dark

What do you do when you feel so overwhelmed that hope is hard to find?

Psalm 88, which is one of today’s readings from the Book of Common Prayer, is one of the bleakest laments in the Bible. Its most hopeful words come in the opening lines:

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry. (Psalm 88:1-2)

But from there, the psalmist sees nothing but darkness:

  • I am overwhelmed with troubles, and my life draws near to death. (v.3)
  • I am set apart with the dead…who are cut off from your care. (v.5)
  • You have taken from me my closest friends…I am confined and cannot escape. (v.8)
  • Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? (v.14)
  • And perhaps most challenging of all, rather than concluding this prayer with an expression of trust in God, the psalmist ends in hopelessness: You have taken from me friend and neighbor –  darkness is my closest friend.(v.18)

Now obviously, I hope that this is not the “spiritual space” that you’re inhabiting today. And I’m happy to report that this is a kind of prayer that I feel no need to offer right now. However, I am glad to be reminded that our Heavenly Father invites us to bring our “true selves” into His presence. We don’t need to “fake” joy or gratitude that we don’t feel; nor do we need to hide our disillusionment when life is hard. Instead, we can lay our lives before Him just as they are. And when we do that, something important happens. As Pastor John Ortberg puts it:

“When we are passionately honest with God…when we’re not indulging in self-pity but are genuinely opening ourselves to God…when we complain in the hope that He can still be trusted—then we’re asking God to create the condition in our hearts that will make resting in His presence possible again.” (John Ortberg, God Is Closer than You Think)

May your day be filled with Light! But even if it’s not, may you know that God is there, willing to listen in the darkness.

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