Psalm 88 is a dark psalm. In many other psalms, the writer is going through troubles as he is surrounded by enemies or as he is dealing with his rebellion or sin. As the psalmist finishes, he usually ends with his eyes refocused on God and a word of trust and praise. Psalm 88 ends with the words You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.
There is no further word of trust, no glance heavenward. The psalmist stares headlong into the life given him and his conclusion - darkness is my closest friend.
The first thing we notice about the Psalm is that it is a song. The inscription reads: A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leanoth. A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. Imagine standing up Sunday morning and singing this psalm with one another. But that is what this psalm is - a song set to music to be lead by the director of music.
What is the response of the church to be for those who suffer with depression? While depression often remains hidden in the church, as if the depression person must be either rebuked or pitied, Psalm 88 teaches us to sing to one another about darkness. While we love to praise God with songs of thanksgiving and salvation, there is a place to talk about the darkness of the soul. Depression/darkness is to be out in the open. The people of God are to address the issue.
That means two things:
First, those who struggle with depression must learn to talk about depression and second, the rest are to learn to listen to those who struggle with depression.
Sounds simple? Well, no because if someone struggles with depression, one of the hardest moments of their life is to talk about their darkness. Sure, they may talk but listen to receive words of hope? Or they may not even be at the point of talking. At times it may be like no one will understand or at other times it is like laying on the weight bench with too much weight on the bar - they just cannot lift this to a conversation. Darkness is a lonely place.
On the other hand, those who listen must learn to listen and not give out cliche, religious, empty answers. Or they must be able to patiently draw out a persons darkness, which takes time and trust. It is usually not time to be looking for sin or casting out demons - it is a time to listen, love and patiently suffer alongside of the one in darkness.
How does the church deal with those who struggle with depression? Psalm 88 tells us to speak about it, sing out loud the struggles with darkness. God's Word is profound here. What happens when we sing about it? First, God is found in the pciture. Second, the person living in darkness understands this will not be swept under the rug and the church is not filled with Christians who have it all together. And third, those who sing for the depressed person are reminded to love them, to have mercy on them and to above all remember them.