My extended family was plunged into tragedy earlier this week. One of my cousins released her four month old son into the arms of Jesus. It’s truly heartbreaking. Being so far away, there’s not much we can do except pray and send our love to the family.
One of the great privileges we have as a pastoral staff is praying for the Branch Church. Because we are one church in two locations, we also pray for the needs of the Cypress campus. And honestly, the list of needs can be overwhelming. I’ve been stunned by the sheer number of those currently afflicted with cancer. It’s shocking. It’s frustrating.
When the pain is so real and so raw and so urgent, it’s hard to muster the time or the mental energy to come up with flowery wording or being polite in prayer. Sometimes we just need to spill our guts and vent our heartache and frustration that we aren’t seeing God move in the way we’d like. Some of us might feel bad for this. We think we should put our best foot forward when we’re talking with God.
I want to challenge that assumption today. David is called “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13.14) who, in addition to being king, was an extraordinary poet. He wrote several psalms, which are great models of prayer for us. One of his most famous is Psalm 22 (see below). As the psalm begins – and through more than the first half of it – we see David’s desperation, particularly with the blunt question: “why have you forsaken me?!” (v. 1)
It feels like that sometimes, but as the psalm continues, we see hope emerge (starting in v. 22). God is going to show up and, ultimately, the psalm ends on a note of triumph. There’s so much hope in this psalm because it begins in such authentic pain and then it awaits the triumph of God, ultimately.
As we are in the midst of Lent, this psalm takes on some special significance. Psalm 22.1 was on the lips of Jesus when He was enduring God’s wrath on the cross in our place. Jesus knows our pain. Don’t be afraid to cry out to Him.
But Jesus also knows triumph. He died, was buried, and rose again, which we will celebrate on Easter.
So, in your praying, give Him all you’ve got. He can take it, and you’ll see that He’ll see you through the valley you’re in, if you’ll let Him.
That reminds me, as Easter approaches, it’s a great time to pray for those God may want to join you for Easter services to hear the message of hope through which we can thrive in our life with Christ. Spend some time praying for those God is putting on your heart – and let me know who they are. I’ll pray alongside you.
Psalm 22 (English Standard Version)
TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO THE DOE OF THE DAWN. A PSALM OF DAVID.
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 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.