This year I’ve enjoyed reading and sometimes linking up with Stephanie Spencer and her Psalms Journey. After a Bible study a few years ago on the Psalms, they’ve held a special place in my heart. This post, originally from I Still Hate Pickles, talks about my thing about the Psalms.
Of all the Psalms, 88 is the only Psalm that doesn’t end on an uplifting note. If you read my previous post about Psalms (HERE), then you’ll remember that most of the time, God changes the heart of the writer in the midst of the Psalm, even if the circumstance hasn’t changed. But Psalm 88 ends on a very low note: “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.”
How can we take encouragement from THAT ending?
The fact that this Psalm made it in the Bible means that it has something to speak into our lives. God doesn’t always answer why, but we CAN The Psalms aren’t all about theological correctness. Sometimes, when we go to pray or approach God, we think we need to clean up first. We need to use the “right” words and have the “right” attitude. We need to be scrubbed and washed up and presentable. This writer doesn’t come with a Sunday school answer, putting a mask on his feelings. He blames God. He’s angry. He’s hurt and doesn’t understand and questions and despairs. He sees no hope in life, no blessings from God. This Psalm doesn’t have a “but” where the Psalm turns from me, me, me to You, You, You like many of the others. He comes as he is, warts and all.
Often I think Christians make a mistake when we are representing the gospel. We make it seem like people need to clean up to come to Jesus. Stop drinking and sleeping around and then come to church. Get your life together to meet Jesus. We’re like those Pharisees who, when a sinful woman came weeping at Jesus’ feet, whispered, “Don’t you know what she has done??”
Jesus said that he came to call sinners. He calls us from where we are, as we are. None of us is perfect–HE is perfect FOR us. There isn’t a need to pretend like we’re squeaky clean. We wouldn’t need a savior from our sins if we didn’t HAVE any sins.
Jesus took sinners and called them from where they were, even in the midst of their sin. The woman caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus was forgiven there on the spot. And THEN Jesus told her to go and leave her life of sin. First, we come to Jesus as we are. Then HE cleans us up and changes us so that our life starts to reflect the changes in our hearts. That order is so important.
I think this Psalm demonstrates that same idea. The writer doesn’t try and cheer himself up or falsify his hurt to make it look better. He puts the blame on God even, whether it really was God pouring out wrath and taking his friends away, or if that was just his perception in the midst of his despair. God calls us to come to him and does not expect anything less than an imperfect person. We don’t need to think our prayers have to use big words or even be theologically correct. This guy was honest and persistent in coming to God, and his prayer made it all the way down the line to us.
Are you waiting to clean up before you come to Jesus? Are you holding off on praying because you think you don’t know how to do it? Don’t. Bring your hurt, your honesty, your questions to Him. People can’t always handle our honesty or the depth of our emotion, but God can. He already knows. And he has called us to come.
Life is messy and we will have so many parts to our lives that seem senseless, confusing, or just wrong. On this side of heaven, I don’t believe we will always have answers, but God welcomes our questions. Our honest and messy questions most of all.
Expect to walk away from God changed, but don’t think you have to change first before you answer His call.