DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
Lord, help us when we are reproached by our enemies.
Read PSALM 44
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil.[b]
1 We have heard it with our ears, O God;
our ancestors have told us
what you did in their days,
in days long ago.
2 With your hand you drove out the nations
and planted our ancestors;
you crushed the peoples
and made our ancestors flourish.
3 It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them.
4 You are my King and my God,
who decrees[c] victories for Jacob.
5 Through you we push back our enemies;
through your name we trample our foes.
6 I put no trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;
7 but you give us victory over our enemies,
you put our adversaries to shame.
8 In God we make our boast all day long,
and we will praise your name forever.[d]
9 But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
10 You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.
11 You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.
13 You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.
15 I live in disgrace all day long,
and my face is covered with shame
16 at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.
17 All this came upon us,
though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.
18 Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
rescue us because of your unfailing love.
a Psalm 44:1 In Hebrew texts 44:1-26 is numbered 44:2-27.
b Psalm 44:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
c Psalm 44:4 Septuagint, Aquila and Syriac; Hebrew King, O God; / command
d Psalm 44:8 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
This is the third consecutive psalm of lament. It focuses on the nation’s mourning following unexpected defeat in battle and its devastating consequences. At the heart of the psalm is bewilderment and distress, the feeling of being inexplicably abandoned by God. The people’s experience is described as a place of “deep darkness” (19), of hopelessness and despair, the words meaning the absence of all that was associated with fullness of life and the metaphor “light.”
The psalmist recalls the nation’s history, rich with stories of God’s love that has driven his direct intervention on behalf of Israel’s welfare (1– 8). The secret of their past success has been their reliance upon God, which they have also sought to do in the present but with disastrous results (4–16). Consequently, their faith is under enormous pressure. What are they to make of this unpleasant experience (17,21)? All they can do is plead with God to stir himself to help them, because despite everything, his covenant love never fails. Their prayer has been the experience of countless Christians since then.
Israel is undergoing what John of the Cross, a sixteenth-century Spanish Carmelite monk, described as the “dark night of the soul,” where one’s faith is hung onto by one’s ﬁngernails because God seems absent and life feels empty (cf. 2 Cor. 1:3–11; Rom. 8:35–39). Terrible things may happen, personal circumstances can drag us down, or we could experience chronic sickness or even depression—and the heavens can seem deaf to our plight. The psalmist isn’t afraid to face these desperate circumstances or personal confusion about why God permits them, but, possibly with gritted teeth, he consciously recalls God’s past faithfulness and asserts God’s covenant love as a present truth.
Ask God to remind you of times when you’ve experienced his love in the past. Write them down, turning them into a prayer of thanksgiving. Consider keeping a prayer journal.
Lord, embrace us in a special way when we are overpowered by unpleasant circumstances and are tempted to ask why.