Psalm 22:1-21 To the leader: according to The Deer of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame. But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; "Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver--let him rescue the one in whom he delights!" Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother's breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
This Psalm is ascribed to David. Many suggest that David’s suffering at the hands of Saul (1 Sam 20; 21:1–15 & 1 Sam 23:25–26) or the time of his flight from Absalom (2 Sam 15–17) would have produced such words. Christians recognise these as the words said by Jesus on the cross. However, this must not be thought of as “the words of Jesus”. It entirely possible that Jesus used this Psalm to encourage himself as he faced the toughest moments of his life. It is equally possible that the New Testament writers used this Psalm when they came to describe the suffering of Jesus on Good Friday,
This is a prayer that has been helpful to generations of people who are struggling with problems. The reality is that God’s presence is not always experienced. There are moments when God feels far away, and our prayers dry up and blow away. The contemplative writers refer to the ‘desolation’ that is experienced when we feel like God has withdrawn from us. Good Friday reminds us that we can bring our tears and disappointments to God – literally crying out the words.....
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
Those who teach the ways of silence in prayer do not see ‘desolation’ as a lack of spirituality. Rather it is seen as a gift given to deepen the spiritual journey. St Ignatius teaches that desolation can be God’s gift to help us become more aware of our dependence on God for everything in life. We are encouraged not to rush past the emptiness – but rather to wait in this desert place for the Grace of God.
This year I am reminded again of how the desire for instant gratification in our lives prevents us from pausing in the discomfort. I am in Japan, in a country that prizes its trees. Some trees are presented as little bonsai works of art on plant stands, and some as large trees in gardens. These trees are beautifully crafted, each individually shaped according to the texture of the wood, and the way the weathering of the years has exposed the uniqueness of its design. The gardeners have patiently cultivated these works of art over many years, content to wait for a long-term result – one that cannot be rushed.
I invite us not to rush through the pain in search of results. Stay with the pruning, and the shaping, and the bending to God’s will. Live with the tears of Good Friday a little longer – for it is in this discomfort that we will find our comfort.