April 8, 2020
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”— Matthew 27:46, cf. Psalm 22 —
Much has been made of these words from Jesus, theologically.
But it is important for us, I think, to consider that one of the ways that Jesus uses his final breaths, is to lament.
Grief and sorrow are difficult emotions to bear. While that sentence is laughably obvious, what I mean is that God did not design the human heart as a vault, to contain and keep grief and sorrow within them, privately. God invites us, instead, to express these painful emotions, in words and tears and groans, to Him and with each other, as lament.
Lament is one of the essential prayer languages. And it is a language we have largely forgotten in these days of consumerism, prosperity, power-of-positive-thinking “gospel.” But now, under quarantine, that language has almost entirely failed us. In the first days of COVID-19, that kind of thinking exhausted itself quickly, showing itself insufficient to the volume of uncertainty and desperation this has brought.
We need to recover the essential language of lament, if we are going to navigate this shared experience of suffering, loneliness, fear, and anger.
Learn from Jesus. Even in drinking the cup of suffering, according to His Father’s will and his own choosing, Jesus borrows Psalm 22 to express the pain he’s feeling — physically and spiritually — to God in trust and hope.
Prayerfully consider Psalm 22, as Jesus hangs on the cross:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?— Psalm 22:1-2, 6-8, 11, 14-18, 23-24, 27-28, 30-31 (ESV) —
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let Him deliver him;
let Him rescue him, for he delights in Him!”
11 Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For He has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and He has not hidden His face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to Him.
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before You.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
and He rules over the nations.
30 Posterity shall serve Him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that He has done it.
Reflect on how you, too, can pray these words as your lament, for yourself or for those who are afflicted right now.