One of the reasons I love the Psalms is because of their raw, poetic emotion.
The writer David laments, sings for joy, prays openly against his enemies, and confesses his sins all in back-to-back chapters. It’s good material for a TV mini-series; and I guess, with a heart fraught by important sentiments during middle school, it resonated deeply with me. It was during this time in life that I understood writing as a practice of authenticity. Today, I see a comrade spirit in the Psalter, one whose reactions are real, strong, and sometimes manic.
David’s expressions of justice, assistance, praise, and regret are validated by a God who calls David “a man after His own heart.”
Often vocalizing an uncomfortable faith, the Davidic heart is known by God and deeply loved through its courageous emotional investigations.
Because of the writer’s open relationship with God, he does not parse words. David knows God can take his direct and unabashed communication. In the 22nd Psalm, David’s cries typify a common theme of God’s silence found throughout the book.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
If the first part of this Psalm sounds familiar, it should. These exact words were spoken by Christ in his dying moments. God’s own son, on the cross, cried out to his father in a way that indicated he felt abandoned by him. (Matthew 27:46) It’s compelling to know that Jesus felt the silence of God. Equally impressive are David’s words in the following 3 verses: by his own mouth the poet answers his very probing question to God.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
David takes time to review what He knows about God in contrast to how he feels at the moment. The writer reminds himself that God is who he says he is because of the many ways, over the course of time, God showed up in his life and the lives of his ancestors. It’s as if David starts down a long mental list of reminders in direct contrast to his current feelings. David gives us very important lessons in the first 5 verses of Psalm 22 about how to behave when God is silent. Reviewing God’s provision and favor over the course of our lives and then speaking openly about it may be exactly how to counteract defeat during uncomfortable times of hush.
What we choose to believe when God does not speak can determine the course of our faith for the rest of life. There are things that are true, that never change, no matter how we feel or how difficult our circumstances:
- There is a purpose— as in Psalm 22, maybe God is waiting to give you time to answer your own questions to Him. Or maybe he wants you to learn the value of resting in him. Whatever the reason, we can trust God’s plans. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
- You are not alone. We gain strength knowing even though we may feel alone, we are not. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:8
- Every season has an end. Just thumb through the Psalms to see David’s hope renewed and his trust steadfast in the Lord.
- God’s love remains. Take inventory of God’s blessings and provisions of the past and then talk to others about them. This is a great way to balance our thinking when frustrations want to tip the scales toward hopelessness and despair. O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare your wondrous deeds. Psalm 71:17
I believe our words have the power to influence us. Reminding ourselves of what is true in the midst of circumstances that tempt us to trust only our emotions can become a way to contextualize our faith. Ultimately, it becomes a way to find that even in silence, God’s love still remains.