Summary: The basis of this sermon is a sermon preached by Tim Keller on Psalm 88.

When Darkness Is My Only Friend


Warning: I want to build your faith, but my first point of this sermon is a real downer.

The book of Psalms is filled with desperate prayers. There are personal laments and corporate laments. It is in these that the psalmists express their frustrations, fears, protests, and complaints to the God that they are in a relationship with. As we saw in our last lesson, the majority of them end on a high note. They move from lament to praise. They may be filled with complaint, but in the end, they say things like, "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me" (Psalm 13:5-6 NIV). All except for two: Psalm 39 and Psalm 88. They do not end on a word of hope. Psalm 39 asks God to stop looking at the psalmist. It is a cry of desperation and isolation. The psalmist just wants to escape from the entire world. This evening we are going to look at Psalm 88. The word darkness shows up three times in Psalm 88. It is clearly the theme. In fact, in Hebrew, the last word of the Psalm is darkness. "And my only friend is darkness."

You might ask why a prayer like this one is found in the Bible? Timothy Keller suggests a number of reasons that it is here, and there may be many more. Tonight we are going to talk about four of them. Here they are:

1. Darkness can be something that lasts a long time for a Christian.

2. There is no better place to learn about the grace of God than in the dark times.

3. There is no better place to become a person of greatness than in dark times.

4. Darkness can be relativized.

Psalm 88 (CSB)

A Cry of Desperation

A song. A psalm of the sons of Korah. For the choir director: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.

1 Lord, God of my salvation,I cry out before you day and night.2 May my prayer reach your presence;listen to my cry.

3 For I have had enough troubles,and my life is near Sheol.4 I am counted among those going down to the Pit.I am like a man without strength,5 abandoned among the dead.I am like the slain lying in the grave,whom you no longer remember,and who are cut off from your care.

6 You have put me in the lowest part of the Pit,in the darkest places, in the depths.7 Your wrath weighs heavily on me;you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. Selah8 You have distanced my friends from me;you have made me repulsive to them.I am shut in and cannot go out.9 My eyes are worn out from crying.Lord, I cry out to you all day long;I spread out my hands to you.

10 Do you work wonders for the dead?Do departed spirits rise up to praise you? Selah11 Will your faithful love be declared in the grave,your faithfulness in Abaddon?12 Will your wonders be known in the darknessor your righteousness in the land of oblivion?

13 But I call to you for help, Lord;in the morning my prayer meets you.14 Lord, why do you reject me?Why do you hide your face from me?15 From my youth,I have been suffering and near death.I suffer your horrors; I am desperate.16 Your wrath sweeps over me;your terrors destroy me.17 They surround me like water all day long;they close in on me from every side.18 You have distanced loved one and neighbor from me;darkness is my only friend.

1. Darkness Can Be Something That Lasts A Long Time

He is praying and trusting God as Savior. The beautiful thing about the Psalter is that it encourages us to bring everything to God in prayer. This psalm is the perfect example of talking to God about it all. There is no other place to go. There is no other God to Whom we may bring our prayers. There is no one else to hear.

1 Lord, God of my salvation,I cry out before you day and night.2 May my prayer reach your presence;listen to my cry.

There are two kinds of darkness. Outer darkness and inner darkness. The psalmist seems to be facing death. He mentions Sheol, the pit, the dead, Abaddon, and darkness and complains that he is near them. His outward circumstances are difficult. He may be physically sick. But, he is also experiencing inner darkness.

You can be a Christian and experience darkness for a long time. The Bible does not tell us how long Job's trial was. There are moments in our lives where we experience difficulty after difficulty as life rolls. There are transitional moments in our lives that can bring about darkness. Sometimes it is as our children grow up. when we experience an unwanted divorce, sickness, aging parents, or the death of a loved one. It may be a shift in the political scheme or economic hardships. But the reality of life is that sometimes things are hard for a long time.

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