Have you ever felt far away from God? Perhaps your life was going along wonderfully, right according to plan. Then, without warning, everything started to fall apart. You lost your job. Or you were diagnosed with cancer. Or your spouse asked for a divorce. Or…you name it. In desperation, you cried out to God, but it felt as if God didn't hear you or didn't care if he did hear.
How did you respond in that moment of apparent disconnection from God? Perhaps you did as David reports in Psalm 31:22: "In panic I cried out, 'I am cut off from the LORD!' But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help."
I love this verse, but not for the reasons you might suppose. Yes, I am glad God heard David's cry and answered his call. This reminds me that God does indeed hear us when we cry out to him. Moreover, David's cry for mercy assumes what we have recently seen in Ephesians 2:4, namely, that God is "rich in mercy." This explains why God responded positively to David even when David was doubting God's presence.
What I love most about Psalm 31:22 is David's open admission, "In panic I cried out, 'I am cut off from the Lord!' " Why do I love this? Partly because it's so honest. Here is David, the man after God's own heart, who is freely admitting that, in fear, he said that which he should have known was not true. Not only did David doubt God, but also he admits it, to himself, to God, and through the psalm, to us. Such honesty impresses me and encourages me to be truthful when I am struggling in my faith.
I also love the connotation of the phrase "In panic." The Hebrew word translated here as "panic" can mean "fear." But it can also mean "hurry." It reveals a tight association between fear and rushing. When I think of times in my life when I felt cut off from God, times when I wondered if God had turned his back on me, almost inevitably I was impatient. I was rushing to judgment. I was demanding that God act on my timetable. Thus, when I found time to step back, to reflect, and to pray–when I stopped hurrying–my fear began to subside. I began to see God's presence in my life, that which I had overlooked in my fearful scrambling.
Psalm 31:22 reminds us that when we feel cut off from God, not only will God be merciful to us, but also we should slow down and remember that God is rich in mercy. God who promises to be with us always.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever felt cut off from God? When? Why? Have you ever felt panic when it seemed as if God had forgotten you? What helps you to slow down, so that you might remember God's mercy and become attentive to his presence?
PRAYER: O Lord, you know how many times I have been just like David. Bad things happen in my life and I become fearful that you have distanced yourself from me, even cut me off. I rush to judgment and my heart fills with fear. Forgive me, Lord, for doubting you.
Help me, Lord, to trust your presence even when I can't sense it. Help me to slow down, to stop hurrying, to wait upon you, to reflect on your mercy and faithfulness.
Thank you, gracious God, for reaching out to me even when I doubt you. Thank you for your extraordinary mercy and amazing grace. Amen.