A Song of Sorrow – Psalm 88

You will be able think of your own stories of tragic loss, as many of us can. For some, it will be your own experiences that leave you, even now, alone in the small hours of the morning with just your grief. In the light of tragedy, is there any more difficult question to answer than ‘Where is a God of goodness and love and compassion?’

You may have noticed the heading to Psalm 88, ‘For the director of music’. So these words of pain that we read are meant to be sung. What can sorrowing Christians sing? Because isn’t it the case that so many of our hymns seem to be unremittingly happy and if you come to church not feeling happy, but instead feel your soul twisted with pain out of all recognition then it’s possible to end up feeling guilty that you don’t feel happy?! You end up adding another level of distress to your pain, and Psalm 88 is here to say there is something you can sing in your pain.


1. How many different things are causing the psalmist pain?

2. How would you describe the Psalmist’s mood?

3. Some writers believe the writer is suffering from the disease of leprosy (because of references in verses 8 & 15) but we are not told the specific affliction here. Why do you think we are not told?

4. How many questions are there in this Psalm? Are there any answers?

5. How does the Psalm end (v18)?

6. Is it OK to scream in pain to God?

7. Throughout this Psalm the afflicted psalmist is talking to someone – someone he holds responsible (God). Does this offer us any hope?

Now or Later

Speak or cry out to God in prayer about your own circumstances. Tell Him of the questions and pain you may have.

This study was reproduced and rearranged from a sermon by David Gibson who ministers in Trinity Church in Aberdeen. Grateful thanks are given for David’s kind permission. To find the sermon in two articles access Evangelicals Now.