My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. 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.
As a graduate student, one of my responsibilities is leading discussion sections for the University’s required literature class. Usually I’m working with students who are much smarter than I, or at least much better at math, and very few of them are English majors. As such, a lot of them wonder (some out loud) why they have to take the course, and what value it actually has for them. Sidestepping the more practical administrative reasons for this, I try to focus on the fact that great literature tells us the truth about our lives in a way we rarely manage to tell ourselves. It survives because, for better or worse, it is honest. I love this Psalm for the same reason.
It speaks to a very real fear in our hearts. What if God has forsaken us or isn’t there at all? What if we are truly alone, impossible to love? The doubts that open this song are genuine, and ones that most of us have felt at least sometime in our lives.
But the song isn’t over. It goes on to remember God’s faithfulness in the past, citing evidence of his grace and presence. Sometimes we have to do this, too, because when we get scared we tend to forget. Faith isn’t always comfortable, and deep down we find it hard to accept that our assurance is not that the things we fear will not come to pass, but that we serve a God who can make all things right.
The opening words of the Psalm are the same words spoken on the Cross. As we go through the Lenten season, let us remember them—but let us also remember that they are not the last words spoken. The song isn’t over yet.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: When have you been reminded of God’s presence in the midst of doubt? What have the hard times in your life taught you about faith?
PRAYER: Holy God, remind us of who you are. Remind us of your presence, even as we feel your absence. Remind us of your faithfulness, and the evidence of your grace in our lives. You know our doubts, and our fears. Make them holy. Let us not run from them, but follow them through our darkness and into your light. You know what we do not yet know, and see what we do not yet see. Let us rest in that, and in the promises you have made. We love you, Lord, and trust you. Amen.
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