St. John’s University, Collegivelle, MN, 56231 2006
Wednesday, June 24
By: Lee Weems
Psalm 22 Living In Times of Struggle and Hope
Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) To the director: To the tune “The Deer of Dawn.” A song of David.
22 My God, my God, why have you left me?
You seem too far away to save me,
too far to hear my cries for help! 2 My God, I kept calling by day,
and I was not silent at night.
But you did not answer me. 3 God, you are the Holy One.
You sit as King upon the praises of Israel. 4 Our ancestors trusted you.
Yes, they trusted you, and you saved them. 5 They called to you for help and escaped their enemies.
They trusted you and were not disappointed! 6 But I feel like a worm, less than human!
People insult me and look down on me. 7 Everyone who sees me makes fun of me.
They shake their heads and stick out their tongues at me. 8 They say, “Call to the Lord for help.
Maybe he will save you.
If he likes you so much, surely he will rescue you!” 9 God, the truth is, you are the one who brought me into this world.
You made me feel safe while I was still at my mother’s breasts. 10 You have been my God since the day I was born.
I was thrown into your arms as I came from my mother’s womb. 11 So don’t leave me!
Trouble is near, and there is no one to help me. 12 My enemies surround me like angry bulls.
They are like the powerful bulls of Bashan, and they are all around me. 13 Their mouths are opened wide,
like a lion roaring and tearing at its prey. 14 My strength is gone,
like water poured out on the ground.
My bones have separated.
My courage is gone. 15 My mouth is as dry as a piece of baked pottery.
My tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth.
You have left me dying in the dust. 16 The “dogs” are all around me—
a pack of evil people has trapped me.
They have pierced my hands and feet. 17 I can see each one of my bones.
My enemies are looking at me;
they just keep staring. 18 They divide my clothes among themselves,
and they throw lots for what I am wearing. 19 Lord, don’t leave me!
You are my strength—hurry and help me! 20 Save me from the sword.
Save my precious life from these dogs. 21 Rescue me from the lion’s mouth.
Protect me from the horns of the bulls. 22 I will tell my people about you.
I will praise you in the great assembly. 23 Praise the Lord, all you who worship him!
Honor him, you descendants of Jacob!
Fear and respect him, all you people of Israel! 24 He does not ignore those who need help.
He does not hate them.
He does not turn away from them.
He listens when they cry for help. 25 Lord, because of you I offer praise in the great assembly.
In front of all these worshipers I will do all that I promised. 26 Poor people, come eat and be satisfied.
You who have come looking for the Lord, praise him!
May your hearts be happy forever. 27 May those in faraway countries remember the Lord and come back to him.
May those in distant lands worship him, 28 because the Lord is the King.
He rules all nations. 29 The people have eaten all they wanted
and bowed down to worship him.
Yes, everyone will bow down to him—
all who are on the way to the grave, unable to hold on to life. 30 Our descendants will serve him.
Those who are not yet born will be told about him. 31 Each generation will tell their children
about the good things the Lord has done.
From the cross, Jesus whispered this psalm. In a time of humiliation and pain, Jesus seems to quote a psalm from the depth of his soul. Both Matthew and Mark include the passage, “And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” from Psalm 22:1.
In the pilgrimage of faith, most of us can echo the feeling of abandonment and we also wonder “Where is God?” David is credited with this psalm of lament. Many other laments found throughout scripture ask the questions repeatedly, “Where are you, O Lord?” Sometimes the other questions of struggle and doubt might ask “Why, O God?”
David begins the psalm calling out the name of God. In Hebrew, David uses El and Elohim in the opening verses. This general name for God meaning Creator or Judge of the universe.
Psalm 22:1-2 we hear the internal battle on one who struggles with the sense of the absence of God. At times, I am envious of the person who seems to have it all together. I wonder, “Does this person really understand?” or “What did he or she do to get all the breaks?”
The emotional and physical impacts of feeling alienated are stated. From feeling like a worm to body aches and dry throat, we are affected holistically. Profound sadness and overwhelming pain make time seem unending. The long path stretches before us and our energy seems to stall out. To have courage to confess our deepest feeling begins the journey of living a deeper faith.
It is important to read the entire of Psalm 22 which portrays a fuller story for struggle and hope. Eventually David recalls struggling with the sense of the absence of God, the psalmist does speak of the caring God that others have known. David comments about others who seem to trust God despite difficult times.
In verses 8 and 19 David uses the intimate, personal name of God YAHWEH. David begins to express trust as he recalls his own life as well as the life of others.
In reading Psalm 22:22-31 we observe the transition in David’s life. He moves beyond the desperation through remembering the stories of others as well as his. Finally, David is able to express gratitude to God for caring and rescuing him. And the time will come when David passes on his story to help others going through struggle.
A Story of Two Tears
My friend looked down to the ground. In a quiet voice, my friend commented, “I battle depression. When the darkness closes in, I feel fear and confusion. No matter which way I look, it seems only blackness dwells. I sink deeper into the well of despair.”
A pause occurred as my friend had a tear flow from his eye. “I sometimes feel there is God does not care or there is no God. I realize my crashing waves of fear and pain.” The tear slowly trickled down.
Following another long pause, my friend broke the silence. “Sometimes, in the fearful time, I remind myself that feelings will not control my life. You know that Truth is greater than feelings. Yes, my feelings are real and ever changing. On the better days, I remember that God is and God loves.”
My friend looks into my eyes as another tear runs down his cheek. “The ebony night becomes grayer and then the light of Truth renews my hope for life. I still have powerful waves of emotions but the truth of God’s love and presence is my foundation in shifting sand.” A tear of joy and thankfulness glistens.
PAUSE FOR REFLECTION
Have you ever felt distant from God during a difficult time? What did you experience in both your thinking and feelings?
What helps you in difficult times to regain your balance?
Is there a person with whom you can share your struggles and allow that person to pray for you?
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
I guess it never occurred to me that after years of struggle, it would continue to be a struggle – keeping my mind stayed on thee. I thought it would be automatic by now. I guess I thought I would be . .. uh. . . habitually sanctified.
But I see, Lord, that it doesn’t work that way. For just as I begin to feel that I have made great progress in my spiritual journey, that I am really beginning to understand “things of the spirit,” I come instead to some dark night of the soul . . . and I cannot reach thee. My prayers seem no more than random words written on paper airplanes and thrown at the sky. I cannot reach thee, Lord. The feelings of peace and blessed surety for which I long are not there. I cannot grasp the Psalmist’s declaration that “thou are with me” – but cry instead with Elijah, “Oh, that I knew where I might find thee!”
So that’s the way it is, Lord? – always a struggle? Always alternating between the brilliance of midday-and groping in the dark?
The only surety I have is there will be these dark nights of the soul-and there will be, as there have been, the times of close and personal experience of thy presence. Ah so, Lord. This is thy way.
Help me remember, in my times of groping, that the way will be clear . . . for awhile.
And in my times of blessed surety, that thou are Mystery, and there will again be time when the way is dark.
Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me – Bless his holy name.
Plum Jelly and Stained Glass & Other Prayers (5th Printing) by Jo Carr & Imogene Sorley, Nashville: Abingdon, 1973.