“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1, NRSV).
That powerful opening line, quoted by Jesus on the cross, is a familiar verse to many. But don’t stop at verse one, the first half of Psalm 22 is evocative and deeply-emotional. The psalmist describes their situation like this: “But I’m just a worm, less than human (v. 6) … I’m poured out like water. All my bones have fallen apart. My heart is like wax; it melts inside me. My strength is dried up like a piece of broken pottery. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you’ve set me down in the dirt of the death. (vv. 14-15)” (CEB).
Walter Brueggemann says of this psalm: “Nothing is out of bounds, nothing precluded or inappropriate. Everything properly belongs in this conversation of the heart. To withhold parts of life from that conversation [with God] is in fact to withhold part of life from God.”¹
This psalm is one of many that give voice to all who feel oppressed, threatened, worried, hurt, in anguish and pain. It invites us to be honest with exactly how we feel. What’s more, it teaches us to direct our frustration and anxiety towards God who is always with us — even in the darkest times of our lives.
I think beyond inviting us into honest lamentation, Psalm 22 tells us that in order to plumb the deep wells of comfort available, we must be entirely vulnerable in our cries.
I grew up in church so I know that the “proper” way to be in church or to pray is with folded hands, gentle voices and meager petitions. (I hope you caught my sarcasm.) This is not what we find in Psalm 22. We find raw and near-blasphemous claims about real life and genuine despair.
Then, in the blink of a verse, something happens. In between verse 20 & 21, the tone changes. The psalmist moves from dereliction to hope and trust.
When you honestly call out from whatever deep you find yourself in, something is bound to happen. For some, this will take time. For Christ, it took 3 days in a tomb. For others, it is bound to take even longer. But something does happen and we are moved to profound hope that only emerges from dark, troubled spaces.
Calling out to God with such vulnerability will feel dangerous for some of us, I know it does for me. But we are in good company when we join the psalms that teach us in the most perilous of times (look around, I think today qualifies as “perilous), we can be real with God.
So don’t hold back! “Let ‘er rip!” Send out your honest confessions, petitions, accusations and prayers to God and something is bound to happen. Something mysterious and beyond words breaks in that will move us from places of hurt and longing to peace and hope.
Pray truly and exactly how you feel. Take the risk of inviting God into all of your life, and trust that somehow, someway, in some time, God will raise us to new life through Jesus Christ.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Cole
- Walter Brueggemann, Spirituality of the Psalms, (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, MN, 2002), 27.