“And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?
We know you were there for our parents:
they cried for your help and you gave it;
they trusted and lived a good life.
And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
something to step on, to squash.
Everyone pokes fun at me;
they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
‘Let’s see how God handles this one;
since God likes him so much, let him help him!’”Psalm 22:3-8 MSG
The great gift of the psalms isn’t just the high hymns of praise and adoration, it’s also the full out fury, screaming at the heavens, “Smite me, O Mighty Smiter!” breadth of humanity on display.
This is who we are! We are terrified. We are angry. We are vengeful. We feel abandoned. We feel neglected. We wonder if God is even paying attention. Are you listening?
Yes, God is.
The psalmists knew what I sometimes forget. God made the whole range of human emotion. He gave us ways to experience disappointment, pain, sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, and grief. He even called those emotions good. Very good.
He told us at the beginning that he made us all in his image, and then he went one step further and made an image of himself in Jesus, so that not only would we know what God looks like, but that we would also know and be able to believe that God knows what our world looks like.
This gathering of psalms is yet again an example of all the ways God knows and understands our anger and frustration: He put his endorsement on a bunch of poems that yell at him.
God designed us to “feel all the feels” because they connect us to reality, they connect us to each other, they connect us to ourselves, and they connect us to our God.
If I choose to bottle up or numb out my emotions, they don’t go away. Instead, the pain, hurt, trauma, and offense fester, slowly and steadily changing my heart and mind.
But, thanks be to God, I have emotions that show my husband, my children, and my friends exactly how I’m feeling. “I’m so sad, I’m so angry, I’m so lost, I feel so lonely!” which gives my friends and family the opportunity to respond in love, invite me into their comfort and care, and remind me that I am not alone.
Through that outpouring of love, I’m restored into relationship and reminded how much greater still is the love of my creator, who always holds me in love, even when I don’t sense it.
The opportunity to shout at the heavens in anger makes room later to shout to the heavens in praise, which the psalmist does in this same psalm:
“Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.”Psalm:22-24
Points of Reflection
- Are there thoughts and emotions you feel are “off limits” or too offensive even for God?
- Have you ever felt like God was indifferent to your plight? Is it comforting to know that even a psalmist in the Bible felt the same?
For the Kids
- What types of things can you talk to God about in prayer?
- Are there any limits to what you can tell God?
Transcribe Psalm 22 in whichever translation you prefer—ideally one that is in a more accessible, modern vernacular, like The Message—and linger a while with each of the complaints that the psalmist makes. For each section of the psalm, think about a time when you felt the same way as the psalmist, and pause to journal about that experience, or talk openly to the Lord about what you were feeling in that moment. When you reach the end of the psalm, reflect on your own journey since those moments where you felt abandoned by God. How did it turn out? Has God been able to use the tragic or traumatic events in your life for good in some way, despite the pain they caused originally? If you can’t think of any ways God has redeemed those difficult times, ask the Lord to show you how he is or can work even still to make good come from the broken and jagged past.
There are many great-looking books on the psalms out there, but so far, I haven’t read any of them. I think the best place to begin with the psalms is just to simply read them. My friend, George Shunk (a new writer here at Root & Vine) aims to read through all of the psalms once a month. This is a tad too ambitious for me right now, so I’ve set a goal to read one psalm a day and journal/pray through it as part of my daily spiritual practice. Reading through the psalms is an excellent way to let God into the shadow places of your soul so that he can begin the slow, good work of healing and recovery in those wounds. Set an intention for the next month to immerse yourself in the psalms, and see what it does for your spirit.