But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning, my prayer comes before you. O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? (Psalm 88:13–14, ESV)
I grew up in New York from junior high through grad school. Christmas in NYC is magical. Some of my best memories come from there. However, two of my top three “cries of darkness” also come from when I lived there. My pastor in NYC, Tim Keller, preached a sermon on “Heman’s Cry of Darkness” from Psalm 88 that helps me still today.
Most Psalms of Lament end in hope. Psalms 39 and 88 are the exceptions. In fact, the last word of Psalm 88 is “darkness.” Heman, the author of Psalm 88, demolishes any naïve notion of prosperity theology. As a devout God-follower, he’s taking off the gloves and giving God his honest thoughts and feelings about his experience of darkness.
This Christmas, many will not sing “Joy to the World” with happiness but will deal with one or both of Heman’s “darknesses”: (1) outward darkness, due to difficult circumstances or (2) inward darkness, due to having no sense of God’s presence. If you are experiencing the “cry of darkness” this Christmas, I’d like to pass on Keller’s four points and the true hope of Christmas:
Times of darkness . . .
1) can last a long time, no matter what you do;
2) are often the places to uniquely learn about God’s grace;
3) can sometimes be the very best situation for you to grow into greatness;
4) can be reframed to lead us to deeper and more significant spiritual realities.
Matthew 27:45–46 reports the ultimate darkness of all time. At the ninth hour, Jesus cries out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
At Christmas, we celebrate that Christ came into our time and space, fully God and fully man, to take on the ultimate darkness of all time, demonstrating sacrificial, redemptive love for hopeless humankind.
In your darkest moments, remember Christmas and then remember the cross. If Jesus did not abandon us in His ultimate darkness, why would He abandon you in your darkness?