Words are very powerful instruments. Consider the words that Christ spoke while suffering on the cross. The pain and agony that he must have been in while dying at the hands of the Romans, after hours of torture. The struggle that He would have gone through to muster the strength and breath to utter even the simplest of phrases.
One of the most powerful phrases Christ uttered on the cross were the words written down in both Matthew and Mark’s Gospel:
Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
Translated to English, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
Not simply just uttering words, he was actually quoting from Scripture, calling out a prayer from the Psalms.
As Rabbi and teacher, Christ would have been very familiar with the Psalms, the songs of the Jewish people. Imprisoned before his trial and crucifixion, he would have immersed himself in prayer with one particular Psalm from the ancient scrolls, Psalm 88.
Faced with impending death on the cross, and forced to reflect on what could be the darkest of the psalms, it seems only fitting that Christ would have thought that God had forgotten him as he hung on the cross, despairing and dying.
But it is in this despair that we should find hope. God did not forget Christ on the cross, the story didn’t end there. Sometimes we can feel as though we have been forgotten by God. Our prayer life can get dry. Bad things happen to good people. When we reach this point, when all seems to be lost, we should emulate our Savior, and prayerfully consider the words of the Psalmist and pray Psalm 88 reverently with one realization.
We are not there.
That is a definitive statement.
Regardless of how dark or dry our life becomes, as long as we remain focused on Christ, the Father will not abandon us. Psalm 88 then, could be considered much more of a conversion Psalm, or a reversion Psalm, than one of pure lament and giving up.
If you are struggling, or you know someone is struggling, offer up the words of Psalm 88 and realize, you are not there.
Lord, the God of my salvation, I call out by day;
at night I cry aloud in your presence.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
For my soul is filled with troubles;
my life draws near to Sheol.
I am reckoned with those who go down to the pit;
I am like a warrior without strength.
My couch is among the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave.
You remember them no more;
they are cut off from your influence.
You plunge me into the bottom of the pit,
into the darkness of the abyss.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me;
all your waves crash over me.
Because of you my acquaintances shun me;
you make me loathsome to them;
Caged in, I cannot escape;
my eyes grow dim from trouble.
All day I call on you, Lord;
I stretch out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades arise and praise you?
Is your mercy proclaimed in the grave,
your faithfulness among those who have perished?
Are your marvels declared in the darkness,
your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
But I cry out to you, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why do you reject my soul, Lord,
and hide your face from me?
I have been mortally afflicted since youth;
I have borne your terrors and I am made numb.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day they surge round like a flood;
from every side they encircle me.
Because of you friend and neighbor shun me;
my only friend is darkness.