When you hurt, how do you think differently? Do you tend to be harsh, even accusing, of others who are not in the same pain that you are? Are you rough with those whose emotional trials are not the same as yours? Do you even get snippy toward God, expressing bitterness for the hardship you are facing?
If we are honest, I think we all know that hardships often bend us toward dangerous ground. We allow our hearts to think that we have it worse than we deserve. We allow our souls to be upset with others who may simply not be able to understand our sorrow. Pain, physical or emotional, threatens to reshape us from the inside out.
Of course, we know that God is not above sorrow. WE know that the Son of God experienced tremendous emotional and physical pain as he went to the cross to pay for our sins. And in his suffering, the Son of God reminds us of something to remember to keep our perspective in times of hardship.
When Jesus was on the cross, one of the phrases that he spoke is a citation of Psalm 22:1. In that cry of desolation, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” the Savior expressed his sorrow and hurt. But he also pointed the people who were watching to the 22nd psalm. He pointed them to things that are significant truths for us all to know when we suffer.
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.
Verse 1, of course is the cry. It is a genuine expression of pain. When we suffer, God is willing to allow us to express truth. We should not put on a falsely brave face and pretend before the Lord that we are OK when we are not.
In verse 2, the psalmist expresses his lack of understanding. Not only is he suffering, not only does he not know why, but he also does not know why God has not shortened the time of his suffering. God understands that longer times of suffering wear on us. And he gives us a text to help us to see that we are allowed to express that hurt to him as well.
But then comes verse 3. This verse, right in the heart of the opening, refocuses us on a truth we must cling to in times of suffering. It is the truth of verse 3 that can prevent us from going over the edge from honest expression of hurt into sinful accusation against the Lord.
David writes of the Lord, “Yet you are holy.” In that line, he acknowledges that, though he cannot understand why he hurts as he does, nor can he understand why it has lasted for so long, he does understand that God is holy. The Lord is right and perfect. The Lord is set apart from us. The Lord is able to see our hurt and our sorrow from a perspective that we cannot. The Lord, in his holiness, in his infinite wisdom, knows things we do not and is accomplishing things we cannot imagine. The Lord is holy, never capable of sin. The Lord, thus, is not wronging us, even when our hearts want to scream out that he is.
Friends, it is wise for us to keep all 3 verses that open Psalm 22 in mind when we face hardships. Yes, we may cry out to the Lord. Yes, we must express our fear, our sorrow, our confusion, and our pain. Yes, the Lord hears and cares. But in the same breath, we must recall that the Lord is holy. He is never wronging us. He is seeing things from a perspective, an eternal perspective, an omniscient perspective, that you and I simply cannot match. There is a place in Christianity to tell God you hurt, to say you do not understand, and still to bow and declare that God, above all, is perfect, good, and holy.