The spur for this blog post is a short article from the latest edition of Theology. Here’s the closing paragraph:
Psalm 88 is, and has been for thousands of years, the means to bring honest, sometimes violent, emotions, to God. It allows us to demand that God should act in response to our distress. Anger is a reality of our human behaviour as is the desire for vengeance and retaliation. To deny it is to lie to ourselves and to lie to God. We must be allowed to express the reality of our emotions as they are expressed in the reality of the psalmist situation in Psalm 88. In a culture of praise and adoration towards God, Psalm 88 gives permission to rant at God, removing the guilt of those who are angry with God and who feel that their faith is somehow diminished by their feelings. Through the honest expression of emotion, people may discover a closer, deeper relationship developing with God. It allows him to reach us through that red mist of anguish. Psalm 88 gives permission for us to voice our struggles to reconcile ourselves with what we believe God in all his power and might intends for us and our world, when we are surrounded by disaster, violence and despair.Beverley Jameson, ‘Difficult Texts: Psalm 88’, Theology 117:5 (2014), p. 359
Jameson makes the point succinctly: ‘In a culture of praise and adoration towards God, Psalm 88 gives permission to rant at God’. There is no easy resolution to pain, and lament accompanies the path from loss to wholeness while recognising that the path cannot be avoided. A church culture that denies the necessity of this path is a church that doesn’t know how to handle the darkest human emotions and doesn’t know how pastorally to care for one another.
A few years ago, I wrote a paper on Psalm 88 and argued something similar to Jameson, but also linked it to the Eucharist. Here’s my conclusion:
Terry J. Wright, ‘The Darkness of Isolation: Suffering Worship’ (unpublished paper, 2006)