1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Does your faith have room for such a word as Psalm 22? At the beginning of this psalm, we see what is a fairly clear pattern of the Psalms. The writer is hurting, crying out to God, and feeling forsaken. Yet, in all of his distress, he acknowledges one thing, God is holy.
The broadly grinning television evangelists present to believers that we who follow God are offered a path free of suffering. They assure their followers that, if they will just have enough faith and give enough money, they will escape the hardships of this life and live as royal princes and princesses, children of the divine King. They offer us freedom from sickness, from financial woes, and from emotional hardships if we will just claim certain promises as our own and fill our minds with positive thoughts.
The fact is, however, that suffering is a genuine part of following Christ. Jesus suffered, even citing the words of Psalm 22 in his agony on the cross. Jesus also told his followers that, if the world mistreated him, how much more would it mistreat those who claim to follow him (John15:18-16:4). Jesus even said, in a radical departure from what is preached in many churches and on the networks, that those who are persecuted are actually blessed by God (Matthew 5:9-12).
This world is a hard place to live. We sin and fail. People sin against us. Sickness shows us that our bodies, in their fallen states, will not last forever. Sorrow sneaks in from all directions. God wants us to understand that he did not design us for life in a world that is in rebellion against him. He did not create us to live in a fallen state. God created us for perfection, for joy, for fellowship with him, to display his glory. The hardships of this life are to point us to the reality that we are not yet there.
So, does your faith have room for words like those that begin Psalm 22? Can you live with the fact that sometimes life hurts, and God does not always take the pain away right away? Can you remember that God is holy, his ways are perfect, and what he does is right, even when the bank book looks bleak, the church attendance numbers don’t meet our expectations, or the doctor brings us bad news? This is a major mark of Christian maturity, to grasp that God is good and in control, even when things are hard around us.
You might ask, “What should I do when things get ugly as you described?” Read the rest of Psalm 22. The psalmist trusts God. He keeps crying out to God. He keeps relying on the Lord, because he knows that, in the end, God will do what is ultimately best.