For the first few years of pursuing Christ I didn't spend much time in the psalter. I'm not saying that I didn't read them. I did. As someone who enjoys poetry, I found the words to be lovely and in them I found an encouraging verse here or there. But I never found myself going to them for theology or rhythm of life. For that I usually just rotated between the Gospels and St. Paul. And then back again.
But over the past few years I have found myself more and more in the Psalms. I have gone to them and back again. And in doing this I have found something quite comforting, because in the Psalms, possibly more than any other book, we see a rhythm of life more common to us than we would like.
Many of these psalms are orchestrated in a similar pattern. I was reminded of this pattern again today while reading Psalm 22. And though this psalm is a prophecy of Christ, it is no less the heart cry of another King. David.
He begins this heart cry with a question. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?" Within these words I find a cry that I have often bellowed out myself. And I am sure that I am safe to assume that I am not the only one who has. For far to often we can find ourselves in places that seem as though God is not near. It can be easy at times to look at our situations, or fears, our doubts, ect. and believe that God is anything but near to us. And like David, we can ask 'why are you so far from saving me?"
May this question isn't quite phrased that way. Maybe it is why are you so slow in answering this prayer? Why have you allowed this thing to happen to me or to someone I love? Or maybe it's why haven't you allowed this thing?
But no matter what the question is, I believe that in the rhythm of the psalms we see something that a large portion of the Christian culture doesn't give us. Permission to ask these questions honestly. For if there is any theme to be found in the psalms, gut-wrenching honestly is one of them. And perhaps that is what you need in this moment. Permission to be honest about what you are feeling. Permission to ask these questions that Sunday School taught you were off limits. So, ask them.
St. James writes in his New Testament epistle, "You desire and do not have...You do not have, because you do not ask." (James 4:2) And maybe one of the reasons that so many of us wrestle in secret with these questions for so long, ashamed to even bring them in the light, is because we have never truly asked for an answer.
But if we allow ourselves the rhythm of the Psalms, we must go further than the questions that are so prevalent in their words and in our hearts. David continues and proclaims, "Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame."
It is here we see that even while David is crying out for God to be near and answer him, he is also forcing himself to bring to mind the past faithfulness of God. For I believe that David knew something that we all know too well, we are a forgetful people. We can see God be faithful in a thousand different ways, but when things start to hurt we easily forget all of those times. Or at least, I know I can.
And we can see this in Psalm 22. For even after David remembers the past faithfulness of God he once again asks the hard questions that plague him. He calls out to God once more, "But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid."
It seems that if nothing else, remembering God's past faithfulness reminded him that our God is a God who comes to our aid. But in this time David is still in anguish. He has remembered that God can help, but it seems ad though He hasn't come yet. But in this David sets his hope not on what his circumstances are, but on who his God it. For he calls out that, "I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you." And then again, "From you comes my praise in the great congregation...The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him shall praise the Lord!"
I can't find any evidence that in these short moments that it took David to write this than an answer came. Instead he was given the gift of faith. Faith that was born of remembrance. He was honest enough to ask the hard questions, the type that feel hard to even give a voice to. But he also was honest enough to examine not only his experience with God, but of God's experience with His people. And in doing so David was reminded that his plight was not an uncommon one. Yet, even in this time of pain and anguish he was reminded of who God is. And God is one who has a perfect track record of showing up and delivering His people.
And in light of this David doesn't say that his pain no longer hurts. He doesn't say that the questions in his head and his heart are no longer terrifying. What he does say is that he knows that he will praise God. And not only in the privacy of solitude. But in the congregation, the great congregation. And he wasn't able to do this because of where he was, but because of who God is.
So no matter where life finds you as you read this. I hope that you shall be able to have the honest rhythm of the psalms. It might not change where you are, but it shall certianly change who you are.