The Book of Psalms

Friday: The Dark Night of the Soul


Theme: Trusting to the End
From this psalm, we see that life does not always have happy endings. Nevertheless, we can trust God in the midst of great sorrow and suffering because of what he tells us about himself in his Word, and that he promises to work in the lives of those whom he loves.
Scripture: Psalm 88:1-18
Well, Heman’s last word may be “darkness,” but it does not have to be the last word for us. If we do not repent of sin and come to God through faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ, the darkness of death, hell and judgment is all we can anticipate. However, if we believe the gospel and receive Jesus as our Savior, not only is the future changed from darkness to brightness and from death to life, the past is changed.
I have quoted Derek Kidner several times in this study. Let me quote him again as he takes a final look at this sad psalm: “With darkness as its final word, what is the role of this psalm in Scripture?”
1. “Its witness to the possibility of unrelieved suffering as a believer’s lot. The happy ending of most psalms of this kind is seen to be a bonus, not a due.” Even after we become Christians and should know better, most of us still feel that God owes us a happy or easy life. But we are not owed an easy life. Therefore, the withholding of such a life from God’s people is no proof of his displeasure, just as a happy life or the possession of riches is no sure proof of his approval.
2. “The psalm adds its voice to the ‘groaning in travail’ which forbids us to accept the present order as final.” In spite of the kind of suffering described in this psalm, the Bible teaches that there is a moral order to the universe and therefore we look forward to a balancing out of good and evil and to a final redemption at the end.
3. “This author, like Job, does not give up. He completes his prayer, still in the dark and totally unrewarded. The taunt, ‘Does Job fear God for naught?’ is answered yet again.” Like Job, the author has received no satisfactory answer for why his life has turned out as miserably as it has. But also, like Job, he does not “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Rather, he is seen clinging to God.
4. “The author’s name allows us, with hindsight, to see that his rejection was only apparent….His existence was no mistake; there was a divine plan bigger than he knew, and a place in it reserved most carefully for him.”1 Thus, probably to his surprise, this painful psalm of lament is included, along with all the happier songs, in sacred Scripture.
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms, p. 319.
Study Questions:

What changes the darkness for Christians?
Review the four points made today. How can you use any of them to sustain and direct you during a period of deep distress? How might you be able to encourage another who is going through a very difficult time?

Prayer: Praise God that he is who is he is, and that he strengthens you with pain so that you can go through the fire and come forth as gold.
For Further Study: When Jesus died, Mary Magdalene experienced her own “dark night of the soul” before seeing the risen Christ. Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “The Day Faith Died.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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