In my short journey as a pastor, I have had the privilege of journeying with some fellow believers through dark periods of their life. At such times, I always feel that my words are grossly inadequate; our time together consists more of silence punctuated by brief periods of empty words. After all, when it seems that a deep darkness so tangibly felt is enclosing around that person and his desperate cries for God’s deliverance just resounds in the void where we expected God to be, it is hard not to feel forgotten and forsaken by the One who promised that He will never leave us.
The psalmist of Psalm 88 certainly has been through such a heart-wrenching situation. In this psalm, we find in the entire Bible one of the most prolonged cries of despair and helplessness. There is no climax or even a single hint of hope, and it ends even more desperately than it begins. Feeling rejected not only by God but also his loved ones and friends, the psalmist is left to navigate the deep darkness alone (Ps 88:18).
Many Christians through the ages have wondered: why did God give us such a psalm in His Word to us? After all, in the psalm, God doesn’t speak, He doesn’t act, and He doesn’t seem to care. What we hear throughout is the deafening indifferent silence of God.
But life is like that—unpredictable, harsh, and filled with suffering. The psalms address all aspects of life, not just the good parts. Here in this psalm, faith faces life as it is. It shows that the experience of darkness also has its place in the life of faith. We must not hold on to an unrealistic and romantic notion of faith (Job 2:10).
But beneath the silence of God, we hear also the continued raw pleas of the psalmist. In the face of God’s silence, the psalmist does not stay silent. The psalmist prays and keeps praying even though everything in him screams that God doesn’t care, God isn’t interested. And what is this if not an expression of true faith—the pouring out of one’s pain and hurt and bitterness and experiences of darkness and abandonment, before God, even when He doesn’t answer; even when He is responsible for all the pain and suffering.
That’s what true faith is. True faith transcends transient feelings and experiences and does not turn away from God, even when He is silent.