“My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why are you far from helping me, far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1).
These are some of the darkest words in Scripture. It’s almost painful to speak them, to imagine a feeling of complete abandonment by God. These are also the words we hear Jesus say when He is hanging from the cross (Matthew 27:46). When He utters them, He makes Himself one with this ultimate sufferer, this true lamenter, in Psalm 22. He is essentially saying, “I am He: the one who has suffered the most for God’s cause and thus knows what it means to be human.”
The plea in this psalm becomes even sadder, but then it is followed by a surprising affirmation of complete faithfulness in God: “O my God, I call by day and you do not answer, and by night but I have no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:2–3). The very nature of crying out to God, even in a time of feeling like He has completely abandoned you, is an act of faith. When we cry out in His name, we affirm His presence and the reality that He can intercede. Even if we’re not sure how He will intercede, crying out to Him is an act of faith. It is always the right solution; it’s what Jesus did in His time of greatest need and pain.
The psalmist goes on to depict just how dire the situation is: “All who see me mock me. They open wide their lips; they shake the head, saying: ‘He trusts Yahweh. Let him rescue him. Let him deliver him because he delights in him’ ” (Psalm 22:8–9).
Jesus does precisely this: He trusts in Yahweh to be His rescuer. What the mockers—both at the cross and those depicted in this ancient psalm—don’t realize is that God is delighted in the suffering for His cause. God sees the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ suffering—the redemption of His people (compare Isaiah 52:13–53:12). And likewise, God sees the ultimate purpose of our suffering. He will delight in it when it is done for His purposes—His kingdom. This psalm is a model for us of what to do in those times.
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