Our PRAYERS turns our ‘CLOUDS of DESPAIR’ into ‘GLIMMERS of HOPE’: "O Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before You. Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry." (Psalms 88:1-2)
Bible scholars are in agreement that Psalms 88 is the saddest and gloomiest psalm in the entire book of Psalms. The reason why this psalm is so gloomy and depressing is because this psalm fails to give even the slightest ray of hope or, expectation of deliverance, and never comes to a resolution of trust in God that is the hallmark of most of the psalms ever written. So, this psalm is rightly categorized as a ‘psalm of complaint and lament’. The only bright spot in the Psalm is the name of God with which it begins: “O Lord, God of my salvation.” Gaebelein calls it “the one ray of light that struggles through the gloom, the star that pierces the thick midnight darkness.”
The writer of this psalm is ‘Heman the Ezrahite’, who is best identified as Heman of the tribe of Judah (see 1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chr. 2:6) rather than Heman of the tribe of Levi, who was one of David’s three chief musicians. It is possible that Heman had experienced a tragedy like that of Job for which he had no explanation. In any case, Heman was a troubled man. As he looked back in his life, he could only remember poor health and misfortune. As he looked around him, he could only see adversity and abandonment. Even when he looked up, he could find no solace anywhere. He complained that he was distraught (v. 15), in darkness (v. 6), afflicted (vv. 7, 15), and cast-off (v. 14). He felt that he was going to die (vv. 3-4) because God had abandoned him (vv. 5-7), and even his friends had left him alone to his misfortune (v. 8).
Even though Heman could see no light at the end of the tunnel, but he still clung to God in prayers and through tears day and night (vv. 1, 13), and called upon God every day (v. 9). His lack of hope was not because he had not prayed; rather, he has prayed earnestly and reminded God that he has done so (see v. 1). The elements of this psalm consist of despair (vv. 1-7), desolation (vv. 8–12), and distress (vv. 13–18). Heman’s distress can be felt throughout this psalm from its beginning to end because his pain has lasted from his youth (v. 15) until the present. While most of the other lamenting psalms turn to confidence and praise at the end, the only glimmer of hope in this psalm is that Heman is concerned to pray at all, and the fact that he refers to God as “my salvation” (v. 1).
When Heman wrote this psalm, he was suffering greatly, and God had not given him relief. But he kept on praying and trusting God, and did not give up. Instead, he looked by faith to God, and even acknowledged His lovingkindness, faithfulness, and righteousness (vv. 10–12). While we do not know if Heman ever got delivered from his pain and sufferings, we can find solace in the sufferings and resurrection of Christ (Phil. 3:10). While we are not exempt from tribulations in this world, we can be joyous in our sufferings because our Lord Jesus has already overcome this world (John 16:33), and He is preparing a place for us in His heavenly abode (John 14:1-3). God knows how we feel (Heb. 4:14–16) and He is working out His purposes through our lives.