When I was a young boy, I was afraid of things that I thought were hidden behind doors, or in dark spots. Night-time held many fears for me, its strange sounds and unfamiliar environs provided much for me to fear, and struck in my fertile imagination pictures of all sorts of nasty creatures waiting to devour me. As 1 learned to identify the sounds of the night and come to grips with the fact that the unknown does not always contain unpleasantness.
Many was the time when I would fling open a door in mock boldness - switching on a light and then peering ever so gently around the corner (having left enough time for anything that way have been startled by my actions to leave). My fears would subside as I realised that there really was nothing there. I even remember a time when, home alone at night. I turned on every light in the house. hoping this would bring me comfort and frighten away whatever might try to torment me.
I have learned to be comfortable with the darkness, at least in some areas of my life. But deep within me there are things which occasionally stir those same child-like feelings of insecurity, things which are very much darkness for me: truths about myself. about what is actually happening in my life, about the ways in which I am or am not growing, and even at times the thought of illness, or death. how do we deal with those areas of darkness in our lives which bring such fears?
Psalm 88 is one of those unsettling Psalms. The Psalmist cries out in deep anguish, pain penetrating every word, threatening to overtake and consume him. As I read, I look for the note of hope or triumph at the end. And it does not appear. What is this? How is this a psalm of worship? The psalmist reveals the deepest yearnings and pains of the darkness of his life and brings them before the God who is light. There is no need for a simple solution, no need for a trite response of triumph. The psalmist enters his own darkness and feels its full impact in the presence of God. He has embraced the reality of his present condition, and the reality of God. This Psalm challenges us to confront our deepest fears and feelings and bring them honestly before God. This is worship, allowing us to face the darkness of life and know God in the midst of it, not just in the moments of triumph. What a deep sense of peace that brings, no matter what the situation.
September 6, 1992
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