Like some of the Psalms that’s been covered so far, this one takes on the comparison between the light and dark of the relationship with God.
Light is seen towards the end – just like the whole weeping enduring for the night and joy coming in the morning. That morning side is very clear as we read the final ten or so verses of the Psalm. That’s great to know. That’s reassuring to hold onto for those times when things are not looking so good. It’s great to know that the sun will rise in the morning and all the darkness will disappear because the darkness cannot overcome the light.
That is all great and is the essential hope we offer the world.
There are references we see fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus. From the opening question in the first verse to the casting lots over garments in verse 18. There is a lot to be seen in what Jesus would do and endure. It’s hugely prophetic in that sense and that’s great to know. It’s important to see the Christ-centred role of the Psalm itself..
Yet also in this Psalm is a LOT of talking about how bleak the night is. You check those first 18 verses out. This is not something that the Psalmist just came across as something to write that would be good to put to music. This is another expression of the Psalmist and his life and engagement with God. It is one that rightly points out that sometimes it appears as though God hasn’t answered us in our affliction. Surrounded by menacing circumstances and time running out, sometimes it appears as though God has forsaken us – sure we read the word, but then we have the experience and for a moment it really does feel like the heaviness of the darkness of abandonment is upon us.
The Psalmist is not the only one to have those experiences. Many who struggle under various life challenges that appear to be overwhelming and swamp them can identify with that despair we read scattered throughout those first 18 verses. It’s reassuring that someone can put that to song and express that. It gives license for us to be honest in our own interaction with God in what appears to be the midnight hour of life.
It is not a lack of faith to cry out that it feels like you’re in the dark at times. On the contrary, sometimes it’s an expression of faith to at least cry out to Him even when it appears as though He is not listening. Cry out! Press your concern into the seeming darkness. Don’t hide it, don’t ignore it, don’t even think it’s a demonic attack because that’s not always the truth of the matter. Some of these times of darkness, loss and absence are the very episodes in which we are taught to truly trust God in the middle of uncertainty. That trust is expressed through at least crying out to Him and letting Him know your situation.
Sure, aspects of the Christian faith want to emphasise on the morning experiences – the joy, the light, the hope, the love, the peace that we have in Christ. In Christ, however, there is also the ability to deal with and actively engage in the reality of the times when we’re not living in the morning. In Christ we see how He dealt with the darkness that would overwhelm Him from Gethsemane to Calvary. In the anguish and agony that we can express, we also see in Christ the key to this expression in one of the last things He could do in His situation – committing Himself to the Father once more.
When we’ve run out of tears, when our knuckles are bruised after banging, the only real option we have left is to commit ourselves into the hands of a Father who even in the darkness and seeming absence, is actually still our heavenly and loving Father.
You may detect a sense of particular resonance I share with this Psalm. That’s because I know what it’s like to feel in the depths of seeming abandonment and loss. I dare not blankly criticise and condemn anyone struggling with darkness, depression and despair. I dare not glibly suggest they are weak or lack in faith. I know what it’s like to feel it and there are few words to truly encapsulate how dark it gets when you even think God has forgotten all about you. That’s why it’s so good to have Psalms like this that start off with that question and give full license to unburden about the state of the night.
It’s crucial to know Psalms like this, clinging on as the Psalmist does to that knowledge of who God is. Hold on to that knowledge, however fragile and dim prospects may appear. Hold on. He is right there with you as you hold on.
That’s where He is when you needed Him.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden