Darkness Again

A poetic reflection on Psalm 88

Every few weeks

as I roll through the Psalms

in the Daily Office

I always end up bumping into this one

and saying to myself,

“Oh yeah… This is the one

that doesn’t have a happy ending, and never will.

We just sit in the dark with that poor guy at the end.”


Psalm 88 is such a rulebreaker,

when it comes to the format of the average Psalm.

Most of the Psalms have a standard format, you know.

First, the Psalmist addresses God; sometimes intimately.

next comes the praise, raw sadness, or lament; 

after that a petition.

Finally, the Psalmist reorients in some way

and asserts a degree of trust in God

to make things right, somehow.


Psalm 88, though, is pure lament…

and at the end, we don’t hear the trust, 

we don’t see any reorientation–

We are merely asked to sit with the author

in raw uncomfortable darkness

in what feels like the moment

the light next to the aumbry

sputters out on Maundy Thursday

when someone covers it 

with a silicone potholder.


I have lived long enough to know

that some pains in life are never resolved,

sometimes re-orientation doesn’t happen,

and that no one dies

with zero unfinished business,

with no regrets,

and with all conflicts resolved.


Then one day it hit me

as I was sitting in a mentally dark place,

emotionally numb,

yet somehow still managing

to be faithful to praying the Office every day.


“We spend a lot of time 

searching for God in the light,

any glimmer of light…

And forgetting

that God is just as present

in the darkness…

because darkness and light

are both the same to God.”


So now when I hear 

at the end of this psalm

and remember those times

when I felt that darkness

was my only companion,

I remember the time

I learned to look for God

between the stars,

instead of looking for the stars.

Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as Interim Priest at Trinity Episcopal Church in Hannibal, MO. 

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