The Psalms are the songbook of ancient Israel. They would sing these psalms together in worship. And Psalm 88 is a song of unremitting sorrow.
“You have put me in the depths of the pit… Why do you hide your face from me? I suffer your terrors; I am helpless… You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.”
My wife once heard the Lord say, “Sorrow is every bit as powerful as fear when it comes to feeding the enemy…”
Sometimes when sad…
We let sorrow become an accusation; we become accusers.
We let sorrow become a weapon; we shoot the one who would bring us joy.
We let sorrow become a prison; I’m sad because I’m alone and alone, so I can be sad.
We let sorrow become an idol; I justify my “self” with sorrow.
We let sorrow become our identity; We wear “sad,” to feel happy.
And/or we hide our sorrow and hide from our sorrow and don’t feel sorrow… or joy.
We all have a secret sorrow that we can barely admit to ourselves, for it is our lonely selves.
Adam and Eve hid them “selves” in the leaves of the trees.
They suddenly knew that the sad they had was bad and so pretended to be glad, which will drive you mad.
They got religion… human religion.
So, what are we to do with our sorrow?
It’s fascinating that Israel died in the desert because they “murmured in their tents.”
So, God commanded Israel to come murmur in his tent, his tabernacle, his temple.
It’s as if he says, “I know you think it, feel it, and know it. Now come admit. Recite Psalm 88, before my throne, and tell me how alone y’all feel… together.”
Through sorrow, our fig leaves are stripped away, and our naked longing for love is revealed… and there is a world of folks expressing the same sorrow in the same pit.
But what if you really are alone… in a pit?
Thirteen years ago, I prayed Psalm 88 in a pit in Jerusalem.
I wasn’t alone, but I felt very much alone; I was about to be de-frocked by my fellow pastors for hoping that God in Christ Jesus had descended into every pit.
This pit is called the “sacred pit” (that is, “holy hell”).
Archeologists strongly suspect that it was used as a holding cell for Jesus after he was questioned by the High Priest, beaten, and denied by Peter, before he hung on the tree in the garden, where he cried “My God, Why have you forsaken me?”
It is a traditional belief among many that in that pit, on that night, Jesus prayed Psalm 88. “You have put me in the depths of the pit…My companions have become darkness.”
Jesus was alone in that pit.
And I was alone in that pit… with him.
Earlier that night, Jesus had prayed in a garden.
He asked Peter, James, and John to be with him, but he was alone in his sorrow.
He prayed, “nevertheless, not my will, but thy will.”
How could God the Son’s will, be different than God the Father’s will, unless Jesus had somehow descended into our will, our sin, our identity—the prison that is my own sorrow?
“…Not my will, but thy will”; that’s Christ willingly willing the Father’s will in the pit of my will—that’s the miracle we call Faith. That’s what it means to be born from above.
Earlier that night, Jesus told his disciples, “When a woman gives birth, she has sorrow, but once she’s delivered, her sorrow turns into joy that a man (an Adam, maybe “the Adam”) has been born into the world.”
Jesus is the promised seed planted in the pit of your sorrow, giving birth to the kingdom of God.
So, what are we to do with our sorrow?
I think we are to feel our sorrow with Jesus… you will find him in your pit.
Commune with Jesus in your sorrow and it will rise from the dead as Joy.
Jesus is in this pit with you and you are with him. That’s what you need to know.
My wife heard him say, “You must give me your sorrow.”
But perhaps, with the psalmist you still ask, “Why do you hide your face, Oh Lord?”
I asked that last week: “What good father ever hides his face from his own beloved children?” Immediately I thought: “Peek-a-boo.”
It could’ve been indigestion, but maybe it was the Lord.
Play peekaboo with an infant, and each time you cover your face, the infant will express confusion and dismay. But each time you reveal your face, the baby will express delight… and the delight will grow.
Psychologists say it’s critical for developing something called “object permanence,” which is faith that, although you don’t see Dad, he’s still there.
Well, your Dad is “I am that I am.”
Peekaboo develops faith in “object permanence” and faith in Grace. It develops faith that the Good is permanent and that the Good is Grace.
Soon the game will be over, and your sorrow will become endless joy.
All sorrow is a longing for communion with the Good, who is absolute Grace.
Communion with God is the Joy for which you are being made.
And where is God? He’s in the tabernacles all around you, and He’s behind the curtain on the throne in the tabernacle of your own soul—”Peek-a-boo.”
When sad, don’t feed the enemy with your sorrow.
When sad… Feel sad… with Jesus.
This is how God feeds us with endless joy.
He said, “This is my body broken for you. This is the covenant in my blood.”