When reading Scripture, do you ever put yourself in the shoes of the writer? Psalm 22 is considered to be one of the Psalms of Lament with it’s authorship attributed to King David. What I love about this Psalm is the insight it gives us into the heart of a man whose primary drive was being in a relationship with the LORD. Look how raw and real David is as he starts his prayer:
1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.
I love that David doesn’t hold back; he is frustrated, he is complaining, he doesn’t understand. We all feel that way sometimes, don’t we? But how often do we go to God with our frustrations? Even more telling, is how David follows up the frustrations with praise even though he is in a dire situation:
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
And the weaving of frustration and praise continues throughout this and several other Psalms. Frustration, complaint, grief. Praise! Frustration, complaint. Praise! How often does our own prayer reflect that? The intertwining of complaint with praise? It was such an integral piece of worship for Israel, and yet for us, we see it as a negative. We often tell ourselves to praise God in spite of the frustrations and sadness instead of embracing it as part of God’s gift.
Part of what stands out in David’s incorporation of laments and praise is the openness in his communication with God. I think part of why I personally struggle with some of it is because it does not come across as humble before God. Last week, my own understanding of humility was reshaped by Richard Foster in the book Prayer: “…humility means to live as close to the truth as possible: the truth about ourselves, the truth about others, the truth about the world in which we live… It does not mean groveling or finding the worst possible things to say about ourselves.” I used to be one of those people who thought that self-depreciation equaled humility. But that isn’t humility at all. Humility is not inflating oneself, but being honest with ourselves and not thinking of ourselves as nothing either. The truth is, we are nothing compared to God, but that doesn’t mean that we are worth nothing. God sent His only Son to die for our sins. Our worth must be so great to Him for such a gift. Our complaints and frustrations are part of who we are, and who we are is loved by God. Even in David voicing his frustrations to God, he shows humility while still being honest with how he feels.
In Psalm 22, David is surrounded by his enemies, and he is not concerned about winning or losing the battle. Throughout David’s crying out to God, throughout his praise to God, he never pleads with God to get him out of the situation or kill his enemies. He lays out the circumstances as he perceives them, he is truthful with God and himself about how it makes him feel, and his only plea to God is for God to stay near. Throughout it all is praise.
If you are a Bay Area sports fan, there are two major events to be excited about right now. The Warriors are in the NBA finals and are leading in the best of 7 series. And meanwhile in hockey, the San Jose Sharks are in the NHL finals and on the brink of elimination. Last year Stephen Curry posted this quote and to me, it is one of the better quotes I have seen from an athlete, he gets it. “Being a Christian athlete doesn’t mean praying for your team to win. God doesn’t give an edge to those who pray over those who don’t; hard work does that. Being a Christian athlete means competing for Christ, in a way in which you always give your all for Him, & win or lose, you thank Him for the ability & opportunity to play. It means giving all the glory to God, no matter the outcome, because you trust in His plan for your life.”
So as you go about your week, good or bad, win or lose, praise Him throughout it.