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Your expectations have a lot to do with what happens to you. – Tim Keller
One of the beauties of the Psalms is their realism. On every page, someone is struggling with a life issue. Psalm 88 is one of those excellent examples of a man who is lonely and does not withdraw his anger toward God for “not being there” with him. Listen to his words.
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness (Psalm 88:13-18).
The writer of this Psalm, Heman, is angry, mad, and upset. Though he wants to follow God, his anger over his present circumstances is overpowering his faith, to the point that he is accusing God. In one sense, Heman is saying that God has never been there for him. His ranting is hyperbolic, but no question that he is charging and blaming the Almighty for the difficulty that he is experiencing. He finishes his hopeless and morbid tirade by saying that darkness is a better friend than God.
What do you think God is thinking about the ranting and raving of Heman? Part of the answer to my question must include the inspiration of Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God permitted these words into His Word, which means He was very much aware of what was happening in Heman’s life.
The Lord understands how a man thinks and prays in his darkest moments. He chose not to censor the hard language of this man in this Psalm. You can also conclude that God knows the noise that is running through your head, even if it’s not complimentary to Him. The Lord is not intimidated or frustrated by the evil thoughts or uncharitable accusations of His creation.
I’m not recommending that you “go rogue” with no governor over your mouth. But if you are living like lost and angry Heman, the Lord’s steadfast love would never be absent from your life. The inclusion of Heman’s words in God’s Word reminds me of the child who thinks his parent is unaware of what he’s doing. His steadfast love does last forever, no matter how angry you become.
One of the reasons this time was so dark for Heman was because of his expectations. He expected God to do good for him, according to how he wanted good to happen for him. Heman’s problem is ours, too. We have a specific “good” that we want, and our frustration can come when the Lord does not deliver according to our expectations.
You have to remember what is going on in this passage. No matter how bad things seem or appear on the surface, this man was still calling God the God of his salvation. Did you see that? Though it seems that God was not with him, somehow, Heman had not allowed the darkness or the confusion of his life to turn him from the only One who could help. There is an “implied faith” here by the fact that this Psalm is a prayer. Heman was praying to God.
In your hardest moments, you pray to God. Your circumstances may not change immediately, but you still pray to God. Your faith is the faith that God gives you, and though you may not recognize it as an active faith in the crucible of suffering, you are still exercising faith, which is demonstrated by your prayers to God.
This man persevered through a challenging and disappointing season. His “weak-faith-praying” demonstrates to us that the God he is praying to is more important than what he is asking Him to do. He may be swerving all over the road, and he may be falling apart at the seams, but he is tenaciously holding onto God, even though it might not have felt like that to him.
God was leading Heman to a specific satisfaction that was of a higher order than what Heman was thinking while twisting in his anguish. Our great God of grace was listening and refining his faith so that he would find his ultimate satisfaction in God alone.
From this passage, we learn the truth from the bitter struggle of an angry man. As hope died or seemed to disappear, God was working inside this man. It is in these moments of our most desperate times when we find an other-worldly strength and help. In the darkest hour of his need, God was meeting this frustrated man of faith.
We know that Christ understands Heman because He experienced a similar but more significant kind of suffering. His agony in Gethsemane and the acute darkness and silence that He suffered on the cross tell us that we serve and worship a God who gets it. Jesus experienced it. He lived it.
On the cross, Jesus bore the utter darkness of our sin. The shallowness of our lives, the unkindness in our hearts, and the rebellion that our lives portray. He experienced the painful separation and silence of His Father. The worst kind of silence known to anyone was when God the Father pressed and burnt our sin on His only beloved Son.
And now we have His promise that He not only understands, but we have a satisfying answer to the problem of desperate and hopeless evil. Christ overcame it through the cross and the resurrection. Because the Spirit of God is living in you—assuming you’re a Christian, there is a witness that all will be well with you. Christ profoundly overcame the silence, and though it may seem a long way off to you, the gospel informs you that your darkness is not the last word.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).