Like most people, I want a smooth journey from points A to B; but that’s not always what I get. When I’m out hiking—one of my favorite activities—sometimes the path is unobstructed for the duration of my trek. Other times, I have to cross streams with knee-deep water, circumnavigate fallen trees, or figure out a way forward after coming to a washed-out bridge. Reading Psalm 22 reminds me of my backcountry pastime. The psalmist, in a few lines of poetry, reminds us of the shape that our experiences along life’s journey sometimes take.
By the time we arrive at the last seven verses of Psalm 22, it’s easy to forget what we went through to get to this point. Earlier the psalmist writes, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” (v. 1, NIV). But what started as despair ends in praise. The psalmist concludes with a series of exclamations about the Lord’s greatness.
Though not always quite as linear, it seems that many times my life has followed a similar pattern—despair to praise, trepidation to trust, skepticism to faith, angst to rest, questioning God’s presence to exclaiming God’s faithfulness. Things might get off to a rough start, they might look like they are about to fall apart halfway through; but look at where they end up: “The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him!” (NIV). This psalm is my reminder that there will be deep water to cross and obstacles to find a way around. And though any one journey might have its moments of anguish, it is likely to end in praise.
God of hope, when I feel overwhelmed by my circumstances, remind me of your presence so that I may turn my lament into songs of praise. Amen.
Two primary themes emerge from our readings for this week. In Psalm 22, we find the promise that faraway nations will turn and worship the Lord. The book of Acts provides partial fulfillment of this promise. Through the action of the Spirit, a court official from Ethiopia hears the gospel and can take it home to his native land. The Johannine readings focus on abiding in God. “God is love,” the epistle states, so all who claim to abide in God manifest love to the world. The author pushes the point: If we maintain animosity toward others, we cannot claim to remain in the love of God. In John, Jesus states that we must remain in him if we want to bear good fruit for God.
Read Acts 8:26-40. When has an unexpected encounter led you to a deeper understanding of God?
Read Psalm 22:25-31. Recalling that Psalm 22 begins with the cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” do these verses of praise seem surprising? When have you seen this kind of movement in your spiritual journey?
Read 1 John 4:7-21. How does your assurance of God’s love for you move you to love others?
Read John 15:1-8. How secure do you feel about being attached to the vine? What has God done in your life to make it more productive?
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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