‘The granddaddy of all laments:’ Psalm 88
By Sean Ashberry
The Bible is not casual about evil and suffering. The Bible in fact is brutally honest about pain, misfortune, and the challenge it presents to faith. The fact of suffering continues to stand as one of the greatest challenges to the Christian faith. Its distribution and degree seems random and unfair. People have always asked how one might reconcile this reality with God’s justice and his love. Those are fair questions.
Psalm 88 is one of those psalms dealing with the terrifying idea of the “absence of God” in our lives—moments when he simply does not seem to be around or care.
Sometimes called the “granddaddy of all laments,” Psalm 88 does not contain one expression of hope. The psalmist lives in darkness brought on by the apparent absence of God.
In his important work, The Message of the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann makes clear the use of a psalm such as this is an act of bold, transformed faith, because it insists that the world must be experienced as it really is and not in some pretend way. Everything properly belongs in this conversation of the heart. He suggests to withhold parts of life from that conversation is in fact to withhold part of life from the sovereignty of God.
Rather than being an embarrassment to Christians, these psalms are to be seen as fully representing Christian spirituality. The world may judge these psalms as songs of unfaith or failure, but the connection is that all songs of the heart must be addressed to God, who is the final reference for all of life.
—’The Observer,’ Somers Ave. congregation, North Little Rock AR, Oct. 9.