Lord, you are the God who saves me. Psalm 88:1
In a Peanuts comic strip, the very enterprising character Lucy advertised “psychiatric help” for five cents. Linus found his way to her office and acknowledged his “deep feelings of depression.” When he asked her what he could do about his condition, Lucy’s quick reply was, “Snap out of it! Five cents, please.”
While such lighthearted entertainment brings a momentary smile, the sadness and gloom that can grip us when real life happens is not that easily dismissed. Feelings of hopelessness and despair are real, and sometimes professional attention is needed.
Lucy’s advice wasn’t helpful in addressing real anguish. However, the writer of Psalm 88 does offer something instructive and hopeful. A truckload of trouble had arrived at his doorstep. And so, with raw honesty, he poured out his heart to God. “I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death” (v. 3). “You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths” (v. 6). “Darkness is my closest friend” (v. 18). We hear, feel, and perhaps identify with the psalmist’s pain. Yet, that’s not all. His lament is laced with hope. “Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry” (vv. 1–2; see vv. 9, 13). Heavy things do come and practical steps such as counsel and medical care may be needed. But never abandon hope in God.
When have you turned to God in the midst of your despair? What’s keeping you from crying out to Him now?
Father, help me to see Your open, welcome arms regardless of my situation.
The book of Psalms is the hymnbook of ancient Israel. The amazing collection of 150 psalms includes songs of lament where the writers—who are faced with difficult, painful, and confusing circumstances—pour out their hearts lyrically to God. Some believe that nearly one-third of the psalms are laments (personal or national). Songs of lament include these features, as seen in Psalm 88: a description of the dilemma (vv. 3–9); the asking of questions (vv. 10–12; see Psalm 13:1–2); calling or crying out to God in the midst of unpleasant circumstances (vv. 1–2, 9, 13); and, more often than not, hope in and praise to God.