The Daily Office: Day 15- Why?
A Good Friday Psalm
Silence for 2-5 minutes:
If your mind wanders, silently pray a simple prayer again and again, such as, "I surrender to your love" or "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me" until the Holy Spirit gives you a sense of peace and focus.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel. 4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 "He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. 10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb, you have been my God. 11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
Psalm 22 is the ultimate Psalm of lament. In it, the petitioner asks the question that seems to have no answer, "Why?". Why God have you forsaken me? Why don't you listen? Why do I groan and cry out to you day and night, but You do not respond? Why?
You can feel David's desperation grow as the Psalm unfolds. He appeals to God's faithfulness to His chosen people, Israel and wonders if that faithfulness ends with him. David recalls the intimate kindness of God he has experienced from the time of birth until now. That kindness seems to have vanished like smoke. All David can see are enemies who surround him like beasts who want to devour their prey. This dark picture is a microcosm of what Jesus sees while hanging on the cross.
Psalm 22 is the Psalm of the cancer patient receiving treatments that seem worse than the disease. It is the cry of the mother who has lost a child. It is the Psalm of the child who has lost a parent. It is the prayer of the soldier dying in battle. It is the lament of the disciple who just doesn't know if it is worth it anymore.
Psalm 22 is the cry of Jesus as He gasps His last breath on the cross. Jesus endures a forsakenness by God that is beyond anything we will ever experience. The darkness that comes over Him is horrific. The one who is eternal life itself dies the most hideous of deaths.
Somehow, the cross is God's answer to all of the "whys" of our life. God doesn't give us easy solutions to our suffering, but he identifies with us by becoming human and dying on the cross. Through His crucifixion, Jesus somehow bears what we cannot bear. The prophet Isaiah seems to say that regardless of how deep our wounds may be, His wounds are deeper still, and by His wounds, we are healed. (Isaiah 53)
John Stott puts it best:
"I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as 'God on the cross.' In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in my imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his."
Actions: What experiences in life have left you feeling forsaken by God and asking, "why?" Look to the cross today as God's answer and God's healing for you.
Oh, Lord, my suffering pales in comparison to your sufferings upon the cross. Help me to remember that you understand when I feel forsaken, for you were forsaken too. You identify with me. You understand me. You embrace me. The cross is the balm for my wounded soul. Amen.