May 28: Through Despair
1 Chronicles 23:1–23:32; 2 Timothy 3:1–9; Psalm 88
Sometimes we go through dark periods in our lives where the misery feels never-ending. Trial hits, pain hits, and just when we think life might get “back to normal,” we are hit by yet another difficulty. At times like these, we may feel forgotten by God.
In Psalm 88, we find one of the most utter prolonged cries of despair: “O Yahweh, God of my salvation, I cry out by day and through the night before you,” the psalmist begins (Psa 88:1). This psalm never climaxes or hints of hope, and it ends even more desperately than it begins. The psalmist, feeling abandoned by God, has his loved ones taken from him. He is left to navigate the darkness alone (Psa 88:18).
How do we deal with our own misery when confronted by a tragic psalm like this? How should we respond to God?
We can start with what the psalmist, despite his prolonged suffering, acknowledges about God. Although his troubles are still present, he also recognizes God as his deliverer (Psa 88:6–9). He appeals to God’s reputation as a God of wonders, deserving of praise: “Do you work wonders from the dead? Or do the departed spirits rise up to praise you?” (Psa 88:10). He appeals to God’s loyal love, faithfulness, and righteousness: “Is your loyal love told in the grave, or your faithfulness in the underworld? Are your wonders known in the darkness or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Psa 88:11).
The psalmist never comes to a place where he expresses even a glimmer of hope. But through cries, questions, and torment, he holds on to what he knows to be true about God. In his very cry, the psalmist acknowledges that God will be present in his situation. While the questions in this psalm remain unanswered, we see that the psalmist lives in the awareness that God cares and will eventually act. In the meantime, he places himself in God’s faithfulness.
We see a parallel situation in Paul’s letter to Timothy; Paul addresses the difficult days that will come. He says they will be difficult for one reason: disobedience. In those days, “people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, hardhearted, irreconcilable, slanderous, without self-control, savage, with no interest for what is good” (2 Tim 3:2–3). The list goes on further, describes all types of disobedience against God—something that is absent from the psalmist’s cries. What’s most fascinating about the parallel is that it hints at the root of what the psalmist is experiencing: disobedience may not be acknowledged in his cry (he is innocent), but the world is a disobedient place. It is full of sin and oppression. Ultimately, it’s the sins of humanity that brought pain to the world.
In this life, we’ll go through dark times and struggles that may never end. We may even feel forgotten. But despite what we think or feel, we can’t abandon what we know to be true of God. Even when our state or our emotions are contrary to the desire to worship Him, we are called to trust in Him and in His love.
If He was willing to abandon His only son on a cross to redeem you, then He is certainly trustworthy. If you trust in Him, He will not forsake you.
How are you trusting God through dark times? How are you reaching out to someone who is struggling?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
- So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son King over Israel. And he gathered together all the princes of Israel with the Priests and the Levites. And the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and above, and their number according to their sum was eight and thirty thousand men. Of these four and twenty thousand were set to advance the work of the house of the Lord, and six thousand were overseers and judges. And four thousand were porters, and four thousand praised the Lord with instruments which he made to praise the Lord. So David divided offices unto them, to wit, to the sons of Levi, to Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Of the Gershonites were Laadan and Shimei. The sons of Laadan, the chief was Jehiel, and Zetham and Joel, three. The Sons of Shimei, Shelomith, and Haziel, and Haran, three: these were the chief fathers of Laadan. Also the sons of Shimei were Jahath, Zina, Jeush, and Beriah: these four were the sons of Shimei. And Jahath was the chief, and Zizah the second, but Jeush and Beriah had not many sons: therefore they were in the families of their father, counted but as one. The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel, four. The sons of Amran, Aaron and Moses: and Aaron was separated to sanctify the most holy place, he and his sons forever to burn incense before the Lord, to minister to him, and to bless in his Name forever. Moses also the man of God and his children were named with the tribe of Levi. The sons of Moses were Gershon, and Eliezer. Of the sons of Gershon was Shebuel the chief, And the son of Eliezer was Rehabiah the chief: for Eliezer had none other sons: but the sons of Rehabiah were very many. The son of Izhar was Shelomith the chief. The sons of Hebron were Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, and Jekameam the fourth. The sons of Uzziel were Michah the first, and Jesshiah the second. The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi, The sons of Mahli, Eleazar and Kish. And Eleazar died, and had no sons, but daughters, and their brethren the sons of Kish took them. The sons of Mushi were Mahli, and Elder, and Jeremoth, three. These were the sons of Levi according to the house of their fathers, even the chief fathers according to their offices, according to the number of names, and their sum that did the work for the service of the house of the Lord from the age of twenty years and above. For David said, The Lord God of Israel hath given rest unto his people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem forever. And also the Levites shall no more bear the Tabernacle and all the vessels for the service thereof. Therefore according to the last words of David, the Levites were numbered from twnety years and above, And their office was under the hand of the sons of Aaron, for the service of the house of the Lord in the courts, and chambers, and in the purifying of all holy things, and in the work of the service of the house of God. Both for the showbread, and for the fine flour, for the meat offering, and for the unleavened cakes, and for the fried things, and for that which was roasted, and for all measures and size. And for to stand every morning, to give thanks and praise to the lord, and likewise at even. And to offer all burnt offerings unto the Lord in the Sabbaths, in the months, and at the appointed times, according to the number and according to their custom, continually before the Lord. And that they should keep the charge of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, and the charge of the holy place, and the charge of the sons of Aaron their brethren in the service of the house of Lord. 1 Chronicles 23:1–23:32
- This know also, that in the last days shall come perilous times. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, cursed speakers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, intemperate, fierce, no lovers at all of them which are good. Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Having a show of godliness, but have denied the power thereof: turn away therefore from such. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive simple women laden with sins, and led with divers lusts, Which women are ever learning, and are never able to come to the acknowledging of the truth. And as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth, men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall prevail no longer: for their madness shall be evident unto all men, as theirs also was. 2 Timothy 3:1–9
- O Lord God of my salvation, I cry day and night before thee. Let my prayer enter into thy presence: incline thine ear unto my cry. For my soul is filled with evils, and my life draweth near to the grave. I am counted among them that go down unto the pit, and am as a man without strength, Free among the dead, like the slain laying in the grave, when thou rememberest no more, and they are cut off from thy hand. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, and in the deep. Thine imagination lieth upon me, Thine indigation lieth upon me, and thou hast vexed me with all thy waves. Selah. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me, and made me to be abhorred of them: I am shut up, and cannot get forth. Mine eye is sorrowful through mine affliction: Lord, I call daily upon thee: I stretch out mine hands unto thee. Wilt thou show a miracle to the dead? or shall the dead rise and praise thee? Selah. Shall thy loving kindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wondrous works be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of oblivion? But unto thee, have I cried, O Lord, and early shall my prayer come before thee. Lord, why dost thou reject my soul, and hidest thy face from me? I am afflicted and at the point of death: from my youth I suffer thy terrors, doubting of my life. Thine indignation go over me, and thy fear hath cut me off. They came round about me daily like water, and compassed me together. My lovers and friends hast thou put away from me, and mine acquaintance hid themselves. Psalm 88