When the Pain Never Seems to End


"I'm down in a pit.  I hate it here.  I am surrounded by fears.  It feels as if they seek to suffocate me. Dark things, scary things, no - terrifying things seem to descend upon me and it is so dark I can not even see what they are.  I feel them more than I see them." 

Words from my journal, written in despair.

Some days it all just floods over me.  I feel overwhelmed.  I feel .... lost.

I used to feel guilty when those types of feelings would overtake me.  I'm a Christian. I have God in my life.  Shouldn't I be feeling joy?  

There is an obscure (to me) Psalm tucked away in Scripture - Psalm 88.  It echoes the feelings I had when I wrote those words.  As I read them, I realize ... it's not just me.  Someone has been here before me - and God saw fit to preserve those words.

I write it here in its entirety.

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.
 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.
 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them.      I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

 But I cry to you for help, Lord;  in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;  they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor;  darkness is my closest friend.

This Psalmist has led a devastating life.  He is living in darkness.  In many ways, when the words are read, there seems to be no hope.  Yet, I am nudged to reread the first words:

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.

With completely honesty, the Psalmist comes before God.  Daily, he prays.  Underneath his words pours forth what is an honest and open relationship - feelings laid bare before His God.

I have to wonder as to the purpose of this Psalm in Scripture.  It is so full of despair.  No pretty picture painted here.  And yet, and yet ... what faith is portrayed.

What an example of, "Keep on keeping on."  The Psalmist had so many reasons to turn from God, to doubt Him, to reject Him. Yet, with turmoil replete in his life, he turns to God every morning, knowing God is His only answer.

May we, when we are down in that pit ... do the same.

Father God.  Help us to understand how much you want our honesty.  And with that honesty may there dawn an everlasting hope that brings us to you every day of our lives, circumstances not withstanding:  joy or depsair - pit or mountain top.  Amen and amen.


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