Psalm 22:1-9 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Why art thou so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but thou dost not answer; and by night, but find no rest.
Yet thou art holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In thee our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
To thee they cried, and were saved; in thee they trusted, and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm, and no man; scorned by men, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads;
"He committed his cause to the LORD;
let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"
Yet thou art he who took me from the womb;
thou didst keep me safe upon my mother's breasts.
Although this is a familiar Psalm, it is under-appreciated – too often we say to ourselves, this speaks of Jesus, we know about Jesus – and we never listen to have the psalm speak to us – in fact, some people might even think it sacrilegious to pray for yourself a psalm that has so many ties to Jesus – for while we all suffer, we also have an understanding that we will never suffer as much as Jesus suffered, even if we were scourged and crucified as Jesus was. Our suffering will never be the same, because Jesus did all this while carrying the burden of sin for all the people of the world, not just those then – but all the people who ever were, and all who ever will be. That is an incredible load.
But the theme of the psalm is so simple, that it is often overlooked. It is the great human lament, "I don’t understand." Although medical science will continue to discover new things, there will continue to be pain sickness and suffering – and often the best we have to offer will be compassionate listening. Sometimes we might be able to explain why things are as they are, and sometimes that is of help – but as long as we are in the world our greatest hope is the grace and mercy of God by grace through faith in Christ.
In our psalm there is an internal dialog, on the one had there is the distressed soul who just doesn’t understand – doesn’t understand why or how – whatever there is they just don’t understand. The other half is the person who recites the great deeds and promises of God, and as they speak them they look for meaning. The psalm is not unique in this respect, there are many psalms that use this structure.
But the healing this psalm brings, and it does bring healing, doesn’t come from the structure, it comes, as it were from an unseen source. The healing comes as we confess on the one hand we just don’t understand, and at the same time we recount all the great promises of God. It isn’t the mere repetition of these words that works the healing – but because these words and promises are God’s Word, and God’s Word is a living word – these words and promises work on our hearts to create and strengthen faith. It is faith that puts the doubt to rest, for that is the malady behind the complaint "I don’t understand" – it creates faith where there was none, and strengthens faith where there is faith, albeit weak faith. You see the great mystery is that we don’t have to understand, all we need to know is the love of God which is ours in Jesus Christ.
And that is where the great strength of this psalm is revealed – it may be that we will never feel so distressed that we would think to say – "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me." I would pray that you would all have such quiet and peaceable lives. But if we should feel distressed, then we can find hope and comfort that not only do we have a Savior who understands, because he has suffered worse that anything we can imagine – but we have a Savior who is willing and able to help us. That is why we meditate on the Word, that the gracious promises of God may be in our hearts and in our minds, and that as we recount the story of God’s grace and mercy, that these living words will strengthen our faith, and give us confidence to face life, knowing that even if we don’t always see him, knowing that God is always near, and that he is our Savior and redeemer.