“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.
I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.”
Psalms 88:1-3 NIVUK
Oh dear! This is not a cheery Psalm. This is not the sort of psalm that would be chosen for reading on a dark, cold and wet morning in Scotland, as today. The heading in the NIV version attributes it to the Sons of Korah, and in particular to Heman, the Ezrahite. There’s quite a bit known in the Bible about this man and his family, and he had a reputation for being a Godly and wise songwriter in the time of the kings David and Solomon. But he was human like everyone else and was suffering. From what, we don’t get much of a clue from his writings, but suffering he was. The heading to this Psalm says it is for the “Director of Music”, with a tune, “The Suffering of Affliction”. Why would anyone want to sing this Psalm? But sing it they did, and here it is located in the Book of Psalms, a collection of 150 individual writings, forming the prayer and songbook of the Jews. But enough waffling! What relevance has this Psalm in our pilgrimage through life?
The first thing that strikes me is that Heman isn’t afraid of laying out before God his predicament and feelings. No suppressing of emotions here. We so often feel guilty if we spend time thinking about negatives. And it is true that by doing so we can enter a downward spiral, increasing our depression. Laying out our negative emotions and feelings before God, however, is different. It brings a sense of relief because in faith we know that God can change things. God will encourage us, put His loving arms around us, ending up carrying our load for us.
The second thing is that the issues Heman seemed to be facing into are no different to what we experience today. Those people who maintain that the Bible is a historical book with no relevance to today are mistaken. In his Psalm, Heman talks about his friends and neighbours, his lifetime of troubles, of his fears about death – all issues that are familiar to us.
Thirdly, Heman knows that God is there for him. Three times in the Psalm he calls and cries out to God, touching base with His loving Heavenly Father, in the midst of his distress.
We don’t know the outcome was after his emotional and desperate cries, but I have the feeling that, having laid out all his problems, Heman found the relief he needed. A difficult Psalm to read, but one in which it is comforting to know that others struggle with life’s issues just as we all do. And we all have a remedy in the presence of our loving Creator God.