My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1)
As the pastor of a church that sings only the 150 Psalms of the Bible, one question that is often asked is, “Where is Christ in the Psalms?” And while Christ quoted often from the Psalms (and we can also be confident that Christ sang all of them many times throughout his life), the one which is perhaps most familiar to many is likely the opening of the Twenty-second Psalm, which Christ took upon his lips while hanging on the cross.
Indeed, there is a rich Christology in the Psalms, but I suspect that the tendency for many who sing or think about psalms of lament (about a third of all the psalms), is to jump to the false conclusion that because Christ was forsaken of God, I will never be. Singing these psalms is merely about remembering what Christ alone went through.
I fear this kind of thinking has stripped the church of the comfort that these psalms were meant to bring to those suffering in Christ. “God-forsakenness” is not an unchristian experience, but an inseparable part of our being joined to Christ and to his death. Both in his omniscient divinity and his true humanity, Christ has the pulse of our condition better than we ourselves do, and he has prepared the words for us to sing in all of our emotional experiences, Psalm 22 not exempted. The plea for God to not hide himself, to not forget us, or to not forsake us, is one repeated so often in the psalms for the very purpose of shaping the church’s prayers.
While God is everywhere and we are always before his face, God often hides his face from us, leaving us without a sense of his presence. In the psalms, we are given the right and the language to cry to God and to plead against our forsakenness, and to do so in the name of Christ, with Christ, through the words of Christ, and in solidarity with all the suffering people of Christ. Let us not be too “Reformed” to cry out like the psalmist.
Do you feel that God is distant from you? Or even that he is hiding from you? Have you been seeking but he is nowhere to be found? Do you feel like a worm, cringing in your sorrows? Admit your condition, but know also that you are not alone, and as Christ trusted in God and was delivered, so will you be likewise.