Category: Old Testament

Living the life of faith in the midst of darkness and despair

Introduction

Do you sometimes feel as if God isn’t interested in you? Do you experience times in your life when you face a situation of hopelessness and despair? You pray, but God doesn’t answer; your circumstances stay the same; you feel that you have come to the end of your tether. Facing darkness and despair is part of our lives. The question before us is how do we continue to live the life of faith in the midst of darkness and despair? Let us look at Psalm 88 as an answer to this question.

I cry out to You

Psalm 88 has been called “an embarrassment to conventional faith”. What we hear in the psalm is a voice of despair, fear, and hopelessness, crying out to a silent and absent God. It is little wonder that Psalm 88 is often regarded as one of the darkest corners of the Psalter. The psalm is the desperate cry of someone who seeks to connect with God, but the sound of God’s silence explodes in his ears. The psalmist finds himself in the deepest darkness of abandonment and despair. Yet, his unanswered cry does not silence the poet. God may stay quiet, but not the psalmist. He continues to hurl his cries into an empty sky, convinced that even in the face of God’s inattention, He must still be addressed. Even when confronted with the reality of death, the poet sticks to his protest, to be met yet again with more silence. God doesn’t speak, and He doesn’t act. The poet is ignored, snubbed, shunned, and rejected. The last word he speaks is darkness. His life of faith has ended in darkness. Nothing has changed, nothing has been resolved, and life has been denied.

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Hope in the midst of exile

The Book of Lamentations contains the thoughts of the people of Judah trying to make sense of their experience of exile after the fall of Jerusalem. Before the exile they believed that God’s presence in the temple on Mount Zion was unconditionally guaranteed. They also believed that there would always be a Davidic descendant on the throne, and that the temple on Mount Zion would exist forever, since it was God’s dwelling-place. With the fall of Jerusalem the temple was destroyed, the king was abducted and God’s presence wasn’t experienced anymore; in fact He acted very differently from the way He did in the past.

The authors of Lamentations tried to explain this catastrophe. They had a number of urgent questions for which they tried to seek answers. Why was Jerusalem conquered? Why do children have to suffer for their parents’ sin? Has God rejected them? Is it possible that He was responsible for the catastrophe? In times of crises, the theodicy question, the question about God’s righteousness, always enjoys pre-eminence.

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