Apply the Word -- Psalm 88, the Gospel, and the Dark Night of the Soul
Good news! We have a name for our new series -- "Apply the Word." Every week, Alex (or perhaps a sub off the bench) will be taking one or two major points from the Sunday sermon and extrapolating how we can apply it to our daily lives. We hope that it's practical and encouraging to your daily walk with God
Alex earned his degree in Practical Theology from Southeastern University, and now works as a Project Coordiantor over at Adventist Health System. He also preaches occasionally, and also blogs over at Redemption Applied, which you can (and should!) check out here.
If you're not familiar with Psalm 88, it's helpful to know it has been called the saddest psalm in the Psalter. It is the one psalm that does not include a happy note. It begins and ends with a sense of abandonment and isolation. Yesterday morning, Eric preached an excellent message from this psalm and applied it to the Christian's experience of the dark night of the soul – a season in which genuine believers find all the comforts of their salvation removed, and they are struck with fear, agony of soul, and despair of God's love. As Eric pointed out, this is a common experience among believers, and this psalmist helps us to prepare for and walk through it.
At the same time, Eric made it clear that you don't have to be walking through your own dark night of the soul in order to be in pain and to need the message of this psalm. If you are suffering, if you are weighed down by grief, if loss has knocked the wind out of you, if you're just plain tired, and you don't know where to find God in the midst of your pain, this psalm is for you.
Eric made a number of helpful points, but the one I want to drive home a little further is this: Feeling the emotions of Psalm 88 is a sign of spiritual health and maturity.
Eric pointed out that the author of Psalm 88 (Heman the Ezrahite) was selected by David to be one of Israel's worship leaders and songwriters. Heman wrote Psalm 88 not only to express the faith he had in God in the midst of agonizing turmoil, but to teach Israel how to pray when faced with similar suffering. The fact that this psalm is included in Scripture as inspired by God confirms Eric's point that "Your most arduous weeping and groaning can be just as pleasing to God as your loudest praise." If you are depressed, if you are in pain, and you take your agony to God, knowing that he hears when it feels like he doesn't, knowing that he cares when it feels like he doesn't, you will please God. And the fact that this psalm exists proves that God does, indeed, hear and care.