Psalm 88 and the Tension of Suffering

  • Emily
  • Apr 16, 2020
Psalm 88:2

A short devotional on suffering in Psalm 88.
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O Lord, God of my salvation,
    I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
    incline your ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,
    and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
    like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
    for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
    in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
    and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

You have caused my companions to shun me;
    you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
    my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
    I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
    Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
    or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
    or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

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

It seems to be a common misconception that Christians are supposed to be happy all the time. Especially those walking closely with the Lord in ministry – surely they are the happiest, being the most “holy”.

Haha. No.

Christian life is suffering. Knowing the One we have fallen so far from, we look back on the world around us and are faced with its unrelenting evils and the good things that are infested and rotting with sin.
That is suffering. And then add to that the human experience, with its pains, tears, losses, sicknesses, and lovelessness. If I could be so bold, I might even go so far as to say that a Christian that is happy all the time is an ignorant one.

“Incline your ear to me” – Lord, lean in, hear what I’m saying, take note of each word of pain and weariness. I don’t say any of this lightly.

What a tension held in this suffering, where we can’t help but wonder and express, “Why do you hide your face from me?” and yet know the words of God Himself, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Perhaps God is doing more in our suffering than we see in that moment. Our earnest laments are welcomed by a listening Father (1 Peter 3:12) as He works in our suffering (Romans 8:28).

If the suffering of Christ, the perfect, righteous Son of God, was necessary for salvation to be made possible, we can have full confidence that sharing in His life through suffering is producing a greater glory (1 Peter 4:13, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

When it seems that God has left us, perhaps it is then that He is most near, facilitating a transformation within us to make us more like Christ, burning away that sin within us that we hate in the world, drawing us up and out of this worldly flesh into new life in the Spirit.

“Incline your ear to me” – in times of suffering, may we draw near to God, and see that He indeed draws near to us.


Twenty-something-year-old vagabond making my way home. I write from the midwest on the coast of Lake Michigan about life lessons, my failures, and what God reveals to me through His word and the wise people He’s placed in my life.



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