Psalm 22 (NRSV)
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…..
Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion….
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
I’ve often wondered what would happen if I responded honestly to the “how are you” greeting. There are many times when I have claimed to be “alright” when, if I were being truthful, I would have said, “not great” or “things really suck right now.” The pandemic and everything that has happened in our world in the past few years has really brought out raw emotions in me. I’ve wanted to scream in anger, frustration, and grief when I’ve never truly experienced such strong emotions before. Everything seems so much more visceral in our curated, image-centered world but there is no denying that these emotions are present.
I have yet to give vent to these emotions, often tapping them down with “I should be grateful for what I have,” “I don’t have it as bad as others,” or “this is fine.” I know that I have also pushed these emotions down because I do fear what will happen if they are truly loosed. Will I be lost to the anger and despair that the world evokes?
Psalm 22 truly does fit this time and the visceral emotions I am experiencing. I am sure that we can all think of “bulls” that encircle us – evil in our society, the pain of loss, sickness and death – and the hopelessness of being in the midst of such forces beyond our control. But the psalmist is not consumed by these forces. They call out to God and their hope comes from God’s past actions and God’s presence “for he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.”
Even though it’s been hard to believe, when I groan with my hurt and despair, God answers my cries with, “I haven’t forsaken you, I am here.”
Father, my pain and anguish are overwhelming. The world I see can’t be your good creation – the poor suffer, the truth is scorned, evil seems the victor and I fear the strength of my very own emotions. But You do not turn from me or from your creation. You have been with me, with us. Open my eyes that I may see You in the midst of the pain and anguish. Help me to remember that You hear me and that You understand. Amen.