13 But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? 15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. 17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me. 18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor — darkness is my closest friend. (Psalm 88:13-18 A Korah Prayer of Heman)
I wonder what the Psalmist meant in this closing line . . . ‘darkness is my closest friend’. Simon and Garfunkel crooned out the same sentiment as the ‘sound of silence’. It is the dead of winter for all those seasonal affective disorder types, which might be a little of most of us. Experiences of darkness and loneliness are part of the human drama, but a friendship? This is an interesting perspective.
I think darkness has its’ part to play in the grand scheme of things. Think about the top 5 life lessons you have learned. How many of them came from incredibly painful but formative experiences? As humans we have built in mechanisms to avoid pain and hardship at all costs, but darkness has its’ place. Pain and suffering grow us up in ways self-help books cannot. Deeper maturity and character are often born out of opportunities to persevere and long suffer. How many times has darkness preceded the dawn in our lives? It is darkest just before the sun begins its’ rise of a new day.
As a person of faith, I have been at this place the psalmist is expressing many seasons in my life. My journal is filled with tear stained words on paper pouring my processing of darkness. In my crying out, I have repeated often the phrase: ‘God, if you don’t come through, there will be no coming through’. Somehow, he understands me at that level. He always shows up in that place of darkness . . . and then he does the extraordinary . . . he enters in. The God of blinding light . . . enters into my darkness. The God who with one word spoke light into being at it’s very creation . . . enters into my darkness. Why? Is it because he likes the darkness? I don’t think so, in my old age I’ve come to the conclusion that I just thinks he likes me. I know he has to ‘love’ me, but I’m learning at some level that I think he even likes me. The God of the universal cosmos, likes me, and enters in. He pays attention to me, though he must be quite busy. I receive these experiences as good news.
Can darkness be a friend? It’s not very fun, but if God enters in and shows up, you might want to wait out the pain. Pitch a tent, stoke a fire and hang out there a bit. You won’t be disappointed. It is darkness that precedes the dawn.