Archive for May 18th, 2018

The Season of Isolation

May 18th, 2018

You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness. (Psalm 88:18)

We prefer those psalms that speak of the overcoming love of God, such as Psalm 23 that proclaims “The Lord is my shepherd,” and “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” We rejoice with the psalmist who explains his feelings of weakness and poverty but then breaks through with faith in God, such as Psalm 40:17 that says, “I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinks about me.”

But Psalm 88 is also inspired of God for the upbuilding of our souls. In this psalm the psalmist feels isolated, but there is no break through of victorious faith in the midst of his aloneness. There is only the isolation. What should be our thoughts in the days of isolation, when friends avoid us, when even God seems to have deserted us, and our faith is feeble and weak? Rest assured that such days come to us in life, when, due to sickness, or perhaps a shameful thing in our life, or perhaps for no reason at all except that we are falsely accused, that those who should befriend us and comfort us desert us. And in such circumstances our faith is so weak we can no longer feel God’s presence – even though He is certainly there. He will never forsake us (Matt. 28:20).

A Cry to God

The first thing that recommends this psalmist to our hearts is that despite his circumstances and his feelings of aloneness he had the faith to cry out to God. Often that is the first key that brings us out of depression – not the faith to claim the victory, we are not ready for that, but the faith to complain to God. To claim is better than to complain, but at least the complaining prayer leads us to speak to the Author of Life.

An Acknowledgement of God’s Steadfast Love

The second positive attribute we notice is that the psalmist knew that God’s love was steadfast, reliable, steady and dependable. God loves us because of who He is, and He relates to us in His grace. The psalmist did not change his definition of God’s love. He retained it in his mind for what it was and what it shall always be – strong, eternal, gracious, and steady.

Many a person in isolation will let his soul’s doubts pollute his mind. He’ll say to himself, “I guess God is not loving as I thought Him to be,” or words to that effect. But this isolated psalmist retained the knowledge and the expectation of biblical faith. He said: “Is your steadfast love declared in the grave?” (Psalm 88:11) He did not say to God that His love was not steadfast. He used the word chesed that is also translated as God’s “loving kindness.”

He Identifies the Heart of the Matter

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. He does not accept that any type of life worth living can be achieved away from God. The psalmist did not complain merely because men had rejected him, but because he felt that God had also rejected him. It was not the absence of God’s hand that hurt him, so much as the absence of God’s face. He said to God:

But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me? (Psalm 88:13-14)

An element of faith is found in that expression. If life was not what he wanted it to be, he still did not cast away the definition that God had given him. He continued in prayer and in calling on the Lord. His prayer was a duty, but not merely so. It was not a dead action that he thought would reap some results. Prayer was for him communion with God, as one speaks with his dear friend.

He Left the Matter with God

Even in the abruptness of its ending this psalm teaches us something. The author does not break through to praise and faith. He ends his prayer as he began it, in a sense of isolation. And there is how we often end our prayers. We must let God answer in His way and in His time.

I recall a man in a church where we had previously served experiencing a severe isolation like this, after we had gone to serve oversees. He was falsely accused of a sexual crime against a minor. Of course, the matter needed to be investigated, but during the police investigation the man and his entire family felt overwhelmed with isolation. The church people did not know what to believe. The mother had formerly sang in the middle of the adult worship choir, and she had a lovely face that was expressive and encouraging. Suddenly, due to this false accusation, she felt rejected, alone, isolated, and shamed, as did their teenagers and especially the husband himself.

It took most of a year before the matter was legally resolved and the man was pronounced innocent, but how many sleepless nights did they experience during that time? How many times did they pray such a prayer as Psalm 88 to the Lord? Some supported them through it all, but even then, people wondered if the accusation was true. During this painful process the family found out who their true friends were, and they were not who they had thought they were.

The reasons we may feel isolated are too many to name. But in such times, and I believe we shall experience them at least once in our journey of life on this earth, take the matter to God. If you do not have the faith to claim, then at least have the faith to complain to Him. And as long as we are still talking to Him, God can guide us through it all. Remember, it was Job’s complaints and accusations against God that sparked God’s response. And though God rebuked him, He used it to also comfort and restore him.

Daily Devotions, Dealing with Difficulties, Psalms