I remember being here. Finding myself in this ancient Hebrew song.
Does it help to know you’re not alone? Does it help to know that an ancient poet wrote this ode chronicling his (her?) time in the abyss? That someone else has felt as abandoned and helpless and hopeless as you do, now?
The poem helped me. It was good to find a lament song that didn’t have the turn to faith and praise in it. Because sometimes, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see the bright side. I didn’t have the faith that things would get better; I didn’t believe that I would ever know joy again. Sometimes it was deep darkness all day long. All week long. All month long. One time, it was all year long.
And sometimes, being faced with those people who only knew the ‘glad’ psalms, who thought that being told “don’t feel that way, Jesus (or God, or whatever) loves you!” was an answer to what I was going through; sometimes being faced with those people made me want to spit in their faces and vomit green-pea soup onto their shoes.
When I found this unrelenting lament it helped to know that other people of faith had been through this. This psalmist (he or she?) had been there. I found myself in this poem.
I am grateful every morning I don’t wake up there. And every morning I measure how near or far it is; for it ever ebbs and flows for me.
O LORD, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
2let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
3For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
5like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
8You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
10Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you?
11Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?
13But I, O LORD, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14O LORD, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
16Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
17They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
18You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;
my only companion is darkness.
Psalm 88 (as they are numbered in the New Revised Standard translation.)