A WEEKLY WALK THROUGH THE PSALMS
Psalm 22 is a great example of an individual lament. So well-known and important was this psalm that Jesus drew upon it on the cross when He spoke the words: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The psalm has two parts: in verses 1-21, the psalmist cries out in agony to God; in verses 22-31, there is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God for deliverance.
To feel God forsaken, especially for a person of faith, has to be the hardest thing of all. It is a cry of utter despair. Notice that he still calls on God. He hasn’t said that God does not exist – it’s just, for this psalmist, it feels like God doesn’t exist for him. He is at that most difficult point in his life when, if God did exist, if God had any love in God’s heart at all, one would expect God to be near. Instead, God seems to be as far away as possible. The reality of his deep struggle only adds to his feeling of abandonment. If you won the game, the injury doesn’t hurt quite so much. If you have somebody by your side, the pain is a little easier to bear. The psalmist feels none of this. Yet, there is hope. The psalmist asks ‘why?’ There is always hope for the person who asks God ‘why?’, because there is still a conversation – and where there is a conversation, there is hope.
The psalmist continues: “Yet, thou art holy”; “Yet thou art the One who took me from the womb”. Whenever there is a ‘yet’, there is an opening for something more – yet; nevertheless; but. The story continues. Why would God, who has taken care of me from my birth, all of a sudden decide to leave me alone? Why was I so lovingly protected only to be abandoned now? Why? Why? Why? With all that is against him, the psalmist once again turns to God: “But thou, O Lord, be not far off; O thou my help, hasten to my aid.” This is his prayer – be not far off; hasten; deliver; save me.
Then, the psalm changes. Evidently, deliverance has come; God’s presence is felt. The man who was uttering a cry of despair is now beginning a hymn of thanksgiving. We do not know what happened, only that evidently this man was not abandoned after all. What he had been feeling was not the way it really was. Of course, it felt so much that way that no one could have convinced him of that truth at the time. But now he sees it and feels it and celebrates it. And he wants everyone to know it. Verse 24 seems to sum it up: “For he was not despised, and He has not hid His face from him. He has heard when he cried to Him.”
If you ever get to that place in your life where you feel abandoned by God, know first of all that you are not the only one to feel that way. Sometimes that doesn’t help since we feel like we are the only ones – but maybe it will help to know that others have felt that way too – this psalmist; Jesus Himself. Secondly, if you can, remember that it didn’t stay that way for this psalmist or for Jesus. They were not abandoned, and neither are you – not now, not ever.
PRAYER: Eternal God, your Son cried out in anguish from the cross, and you delivered him. Do not hide your face from those who cry out to you. By his death and resurrection bring life where there is death: feed the hungry, strengthen the weak, and break the chains of oppression, that all people may rejoice in your saving deeds through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.