Study Guide – Psalm 88:11-18



11 Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love?
    Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
12 Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds?
    Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness?
13 O Lord, I cry out to you.
    I will keep on pleading day by day.
14 O Lord, why do you reject me?
    Why do you turn your face from me?

15 I have been sick and close to death since my youth.
    I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors.
16 Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me.
    Your terrors have paralyzed me.
17 They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long.
    They have engulfed me completely.
18 You have taken away my companions and loved ones.
    Darkness is my closest friend. NLT


Picking up from where verse 10 left us, the writer of this psalm plunges deeper into his suffering… and ends his thoughts without hope. Read verses 11-18 and then consider these questions to ponder

  • Does the despairing ending surprise you? Does the lack of hope concern you? Why or why not?

  • What does the inclusion of this chapter in the Bible teach us about prayer?

  • What is missing in this psalm that most other psalms seem to have?

  • How does the ending allow the writer of this psalm to be honest?

  • How might a trite response to the writer (e.g. "Don't worry… It'll be okay") actually be unhelpful?

  • Looking back at this whole psalm (88:1-18), find a couple of hints towards hope.


How could you use this psalm to shape your own understanding and response to suffering?


Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

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