Psalm 22

Good Sunday morning. As we wake up to incessant news about viral growth, pain, and suffering, it is easy to ask what we did to deserve this. We slip into simplistic “A causes B” mindsets and try to find THE reason why all of this is happening. Humans are averse to the unexplained. We have an impulse to know why. It is not a sinful or evil impulse in the least, but it can separate us from God if we don’t manage it.

In the most well-known scene in Jesus’ life, tortured on one of the cruelest devices mankind has ever constructed, Jesus also asked the question in a famous moment: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But did you know he borrowed the language? King David asked the same question in Psalms 22:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” (Ps. 22:1)

I thought today that I would “transform” the whole of Psalms 22:1-18 into more modern language, in order to make a point that is relevant for our current situation.

“God! I know you’re listening! You’ve listened before, and you’ve listened to others! I know you can hear me!”

“Why won’t you answer?”

“You are God! I know you can fix this! You have always been there for us! Look at what is happening! Look at all of this mess!”

“Why won’t you answer?”

“It’s me, isn’t it? I’m unworthy. I must have done something terrible, and this is my punishment. Everyone laughs at me and tells me I’m getting what I deserve for believing in you. ‘Let God save him!’ they say derisively, and then ask ‘Where is your God now?'”

“Why won’t you answer?”

“But I remember how you’ve cared for me. I remember how you have been there since even before I was born. If you aren’t here, then there is no one left to help.”

“Why won’t you answer?”

“The enemy surrounds me, can’t you see that? The angry bulls, the hungry lions! They wait, watching me with desire, savoring every drop of my fear. They know I cannot resist them – they know they have won. I am crushed, hopeless, and defeated. All I can do is wait to die. Doesn’t that matter to you?”

“Why won’t you answer?”

“They have wounded me for pleasure. They have treated me as less than human. All that I have, they can take at will, and I am powerless to stop them.”

“WHY won’t you answer?”

Do you feel that way today? Surrounded by a spreading virus, racial tensions, vicious and violent ideologies, stories of pain, suffering, and death? Is your heart like wax? Do you feel melted and broken? Do you wonder why God is so angry at us, even though we didn’t do anything to deserve this?

Now you have an inkling of how Jesus felt.

God allowed the unbridled evil of the world to slaughter His own Son, though Christ had done nothing to deserve it. And within all the myriad theological reasons for that, there is one important lesson for today. Because, as we continue to read the 22nd Psalm, we see that David finally realized that his vision was too narrow. He realized that the pain and suffering was deceiving him into only looking at the “now”. Even Christ, who knew FULL WELL that His momentary suffering would blossom into a new and glorious Kingdom, even Christ, in his humanness, for a moment, lost sight of that.

But then we read Psalms 22:19-31, where we see that God has not despised us but has listened, not with temporary fixes like taking a virus away or making people be nice to each other, but in a permanent, eternal fix. We wanted to feel better and be safer in this moment, and God said,

“I have something better! But only your suffering will allow you to see that.”

You see:

Christianity without suffering is just a bunch of axioms.

Christianity without death is just a bunch of nice ideas.

Christianity without the horrific things that happened to a man that in no way deserved them but overcame them anyway…is just another psychological opiate.

Christians – have you been cultivating the fruits of the Spirit? Here is your chance to harvest. What are you finding? Vast fields of patience, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, and self-control? Or are you finding fields of withered, starved, and neglected fruit? Whose fault would that be?

Bad things happen. To everyone. All the time. That is what this world has to offer. We are certainly not better than Christ, and they happened to Him. So as you endure, remember Psalms 22. Remember that Jesus Himself felt what you feel. Remember that there is only one outcome that is eternal, and if you are a believer, it is sealed and assured. And if you’ve been neglecting your “spiritual fruit” garden, now’s a great time to get back to it.

Have a good Sunday.

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