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PSALM 22:1-5 (ESV)
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.LEARNING TO LAMENT
When Jesus hung upon the cross and quoted from Psalm 22, he was experiencing something that was completely unique to him as the Son of God. He carried the weight of every sin ever committed by humanity as described in Isaiah 53. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.” “It was the will of the Lord to crush him…when his soul makes an offering for guilt” (Is. 53:4-5a, 10a).
His forsakenness was by the Father implied that no angel armies would intervene as the Lamb of God suffered unto death in the moment which would become the grand turning point for all of salvation history. Even now, the empty cross reminds us of Jesus’ lamenting cries and subsequent victory over the grave. His perfect sacrifice allows anyone who trusts in Jesus to be given the free gift of eternal life.
This week, let’s also look at Psalm 22 for the kind of psalm that it is – a psalm of lament.
Within our current generation, very little has been written about the importance of lamenting within the life of a Christian. This is why the excellent book “Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy” made such a splash when it was published a few years ago. In that book, Pastor Mark Vroegop described a Biblical lament as “a prayer in pain that leads to trust.”
Notice how the first verses in Psalm 22 do this. The psalmist admits that God feels distant. Yet, the prayer goes on to acknowledge that God is enthroned and trustworthy. This is quite different from complaining to God. When we are faced with trying circumstances, it is so easy to act like the nation of Israel. We quickly ask “Why?” and then proceed to complain to God as we openly question His sovereignty or goodness.
Lamenting is different.
Laments begin with a posture of humility. It recognizes that He is God and we are not. It admits that there are divine plans which we cannot see. It recalls His past faithfulness and cries out for His help in the present.
Lamenting gives Christians room to offer to God the raw emotions which keep us up at night. Jesus perfectly modeled this for us as he hung on the cross under the darkness of that day. He prayed “Why have you forsaken me?” and “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus expressed both feelings of isolation and words of trust.
These kind of laments are ones which we must learn to pray! Without them, we won’t know how to process pain while also clinging to faith in the Lord.
If you are struggling this week, consider meditating upon laments like Psalm 22 or Psalm 13. If they helped carry Jesus through His suffering, perhaps the Lord will use them to carry you through your suffering. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Let’s keep turning to Him through necessary prayers of lament.
Help us Lord, Amen!