Psalm 88 is often referred to as ‘the psalm of darkness’ because it appears to lack any ray of light. Many other lament psalms end with songs of celebration as faith rises up to take hold of God. Not so in this psalm. On the contrary the psalmist says, towards the end of the psalm, that he is in despair and he finishes with the words “darkness is my closest friend.”
But there is a ray of light in this psalm and it is important to recognise this because this ray of light is why this psalm is recorded in scripture for us. The ray of light is the faith of the psalmist. This is what the psalms demonstrate so vividly; they show us what true faith looks like and what it does. Here in the worst life situation, the faith of the psalmist rises up to cry to God. That is the first expression of faith. But this faith is more than a flicker. In verses 10-12 the psalmist makes a compelling faith-appeal. He boldly argues that his demise will deprive God of the glory that he would gain from an act of salvation. This is an appeal based on an understanding of God’s covenant and God’s character and therefore a significant expression of faith. This is the ray of light in this psalm and it is made particularly stark by the darkness of the context.
Psalm 88 is therefore an example of a strong relational faith. It shows the kinds of relational honestly that God wants from us and the bold childlike trust that is celebrated throughout the Bible.