The Unhappiest Psalm

The Unhappiest Psalm (a poetic reflection on Psalm 88)

Daily Office Readings for Friday, February 11, 2022: AM Psalm 88; PM Psalm 91, 92, Gen. 27:46-28:4,10-22; Rom. 13:1-14; John 8:33-47

Without a doubt, it’s the unhappiest psalm.

Not the grossest one,

not the most shocking one,

but definitely the unhappiest one.


It doesn’t even follow the rules.

Most of the psalms start

by telling God we recognize the Divine Awesomeness
that comprises God.

Then we say what’s on our mind,

and then we thank God for all the Divine Awesomeness

of which we believe that God is capable.


Alas, not Psalm 88.

It seems like an island of abject grief

floating in an ocean of out-of-reach awesomeness…

And on the island

resides someone who is so deep in grief

God appears to be the perpetrator

rather than a companion.

It ends darkly, silently…


and waiting in the dark.


It’s so uncomfortable a psalm

that the Revised Common Lectionary

that we use on Sundays

omits it.

I’ve always wondered what it was like

that day, way back when,

When that decision was made.

Was it because it was so depressive?

Was it because it didn’t fit the “formula”

and there was doubt regarding its value or authenticity?



I skip this one sometimes

when I’m saying the Daily Office

because it’s just too heavy

on the days I don’t need more heavy.

(I get that way about Psalm 137 sometimes too.

Sometimes I’m not in the mood

to hear about baby heads being dashed on rocks.)


But then I am reminded

it might be EXACTLY why this psalm is here.

I have had times in my life

where God really did feel absent

and I was not even convinced

That God existed.

Yet I still yelled at God

and the yelling seemed important,

even if it was a little misplaced.


Or times in my life

that I poured my heart out to God

and all I could hear

when I stopped

was the whistling of the wind

or the chirping of crickets

(literally and figuratively.)


Yet, with time,

God revealed that presence of the Divine Self,

almost never in the way I expected or demanded.

It’s only through the retrospectoscope,

that it became apparent

that God really was there,

but the silence was meant to give me and my broken emotions

time to catch up.


and now,

beginning a third year

where I’m experiencing

new levels of inhumanity

and new levels of “self above all”

I need this psalm more than ever

If only to remind me that

there is a holiness

In my own despair

That I need time to explore.


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-St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Hannibal, MO. 


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