Several months ago, a friend said, “I read the Bible to get to know the author.”
And it was like this huge light bulb went off in my head.
That may be the biggest DUH-epiphany I’ve ever shared on this blog, but stick with me for a moment.
I am a selfish person.
Let’s get that right out there in the open.
I have a tendency to think in terms of me.
Which means I’ve always read the Bible with the mindset of, “How does this apply to me?”
Don’t get me wrong. That question isn’t bad. In fact, it’s a good one to ask.
I just think it was time for me to step back and approach the Bible a little differently.
Since then, every morning when I dig into Scripture, I do so with the mindset of, “What can I learn about God?”
There’s rarely a dull moment.
Especially when I read things like Psalm 88.
Can we take a minute and talk about Psalm 88? Can I encourage you, if you have a Bible handy, to open it up and give that puppy a read?
Cheery, isn’t it?
This is one of the few psalms that offers no expression of hope. The psalmist, most likely a dude called Heman (for all you fellow children of the 80’s, I dare you to tell me that isn’t cool), is in complete, full-throttle anguish.
He’s basically crying out to God, “Why are these bad things happening? Why am I in such agony? Why haven’t you showed up yet?”
Only unlike other anguish-soaked psalms, this one does not end in a revelation of God’s greatness or goodness.
Heman declares, “Darkness is my closest friend.”
And the curtains close. Cue the music. Show is over.
I sat there, curled up on my couch, wondering, “Now how in the world did this get in there?”
What did God want to teach me about Himself from this psalm? Why was it a part of Scripture?
As I sat with those questions, a couple faces came to mind. Dear friends, who as of late, have gone through the ringer of suffering. Friends who are weary and beat-down and could easily ask, “Where are you God? Why is this happening?”
Can you relate, loved one? Do you find yourself feeling like a bag of dry bones?
Then perhaps Psalm 88 can offer some comfort after all.
Because the one clear answer that kept coming to mind from this God who doesn’t always put a stop to the pain was this:
We are allowed to grieve.
We do not have to put on that blasted happy face and tell the world we’re okay when we aren’t.
Friends, we are allowed to grieve.
But as sons and daughters of the Most High, He wants us to grieve with Him, not apart from Him.
Let’s take a page from Martha and Mary’s book.
When their brother, Lazarus, fell ill, they sent word to Jesus to come quick because his friend was dying.
Mary and Martha knew Jesus could heal Lazarus. They knew it with every fiber of their being.
But what did Jesus do?
Did he drop everything and rush to Lazarus’ bedside?
He stayed where he was for two more days.
Can you imagine being Mary and Martha? Waiting with heavy, desperate hearts. Watching the door for the first sign of Jesus as their brother grew sicker and sicker and eventually….died.
These sisters grieved.
But then we read this verse:
When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him.
She didn’t avoid Jesus or refuse to see Him, because forget Him.
As soon as she found out He was coming, she went to Him. And she said, “Lord, if only you had been here….”
Then Mary arrives and she falls at Jesus’ feet and she cries, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Can you hear it? The desperation?
WHERE WERE YOU, JESUS? WHY WEREN’T YOU HERE?
These sisters were troubled. But they took their troubled hearts to the man they knew as Lord.
And here comes the most beautiful part of the story. The shortest, but perhaps one of the most profound verses in the Bible.
What can psalm 88 and this story teach us about God?
He grieves with us.
Even though He knows the entire story, even though He knows the insane, off-the-hook hope in store for those who trust Him, He grieves with us in our moments.
Even though He knew that in two seconds, He would roll that stone aside and breathe life into Lazarus’ dry bones, He wept with these sisters.
And when all hope seemed lost, He shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”
And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes….
And this Jesus who could heal the sick became a Jesus who could raise the dead.
Let’s Talk: Are you hurting with Jesus, or are you hurting away from Him?
If you’d like to read a story about God’s ability to breathe hope and beauty into our broken lives, check out the first three chapters of my debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter.