I cannot read Psalm 22 without thinking of my friend Andie, whom I met when she was about seven years old. Andie grew up living her faith enthusiastically. She was funny, energetic, and mischievous—a joy to know. Just as Andie finished college, she developed cancer. After treatment she seemed well. But when the cancer returned a few years later, it became obvious that Andie would not win the battle. She died at age twenty-five. In her final months, Andie planned her memorial service. She insisted that Psalm 22 be read in its entirety, and it was.
The psalm moves from a familiar, opening cry of abandonment and despair to a closing hymn of sustained praise and faith in verses 23-31—a monumental journey. Verses 1-22 alternate between anguish and expressions of faith in God’s presence and steadfast care. This movement seems a normal part of the spiritual life. Times of hope, expectation, joy, and praise give way to disappointment, doubt, and sometimes the sense of solitary suffering reflected in the psalm’s opening. Even Mother Teresa experienced this sense of spiritual bereftness. After her death, the world learned from her journals of a years-long struggle with serious doubt, sometimes doubt about whether God even existed. But she never let doubt keep her from living a life of love and service.
Today’s verses affirm that ultimately faith wins. They encourage us to declare to others God’s saving deeds. That’s what Andie did. Beyond her pain and grief, through this psalm she reminded us that in the extremes of her life, she had found God to be enough. I don’t know the person who wrote this psalm, but I did know Andie—and I am grateful for her witness.
Loving God, for your help in the past and your grace promised for today, the future, and life beyond this life, we give you thanks. Amen.
We cannot earn God’s love. Going back to the time of Abraham, God’s blessing has been based on faith. God chose Abraham for a covenant not because Abraham was perfect but because he believed God. The psalmist reminds his audience of their ancient relationship with God and expresses the hope that it will continue through future generations. Paul reinforces the centrality of faith in Romans. Following the law was not bad, but no one should believe that following the law could earn God’s favor. In Mark 8, Jesus pushes his disciples in their understanding of faith. Trusting God means surrendering everything, including position and reputation. If we value those things more than God, then we are not displaying the faith of Abraham.
• Read Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16. No rules, just relationship. How comfortable are you in your relationship with God? Upon what does it rest?
• Read Psalm 22. Which verses are most familiar to you? In what ways does your faith journey live in the interplay of shadow and light?
• Read Romans 4:13-25. How easily do you live in God’s grace? In what areas do you find yourself “reckoning” your righteousness?
• Read Mark 8:31-38. When the world asks you who you are, what is your reply?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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