When Darkness is your Closest Friend

October 1, 2023 Download: Audio

Psalm 88

When I was thinking of asking Rhonda to marry me, I went shopping for a diamond ring. Nothing else would do. Diamonds are, perhaps, the most beautiful of all precious stones and when you think about what kind of stone you want on the ring that represents the grandeur of the vows you make to shape your marriage, a diamond seems the perfect choice. Not only is it beautiful and desirable, but its story of formation speaks volumes about what you want your marriage to be.

A diamond is formed in the belly of the earth where conditions are most harsh. It is formed when carbon deposits are subject to high temperatures and pressures. These carbon deposits become diamonds when these high temps and high pressure cause the carbon atoms to bond together to form crystals. Once a diamond crystal is found, it is put under more severe conditions as an expert jeweler breaks, cuts, and polishes it to make it shine.

When we look at the topic of suffering, like we find in this psalm, we are forced to ask, why? Why does God allow so much suffering in the world? The answer is two-fold. On the one hand, there is suffering in the world because our world is fallen and cursed as a result. This is what the opening pages of Genesis teach us. Adam and Eve were placed in a wonderful garden—a garden where they got to walk and talk with God himself. He had only asked of them one thing—to refrain from eating the forbidden fruit. When Even was seduced by the serpent to eat it, and gave some to Adam and he ate it, everything changed. God sent them out of the garden, cursed the earth, and put them under the sentence of death. That’s the simple answer.

But a deeper answer points us beyond suffering as a curse and to suffering as a blessing. What? Yes, there is blessing in suffering though it will not feel like it at the time. As Paul writes to the Romans,

we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:2–5)

Nothing less than suffering is required to produce hope. What hope? Hope in the glory of God.

We spend too much time, particularly as Americans, putting our hope in all kinds of other things. We hope to see our children mature into people of deep faith and integrity. We hope to find success in our work. We hope to reach a place of financial independence and retire. We hope to lead comfortable lives. Suffering causes all of these hopes to fall away so that only one hope remains—the hope of the glory of God. This psalm helps us to get there.

How so? It leads into the darkness to place of despair. Only there do we discover the beauty of the glory of God.