One of the wonderful things about Scripture is its ability to put into words those feelings and experiences for which our words seem insufficient. We may say we have a headache, or our knees hurt, but there’s more to our malady than physical pain; there’s also an emotional content brought on by the pain and our response to it. Psalm 22 is a particularly good example of Scripture’s ability to verbalize that emotional content.
In verse 1 the author describes a feeling of abandonment, of feeling alone with their pain. Verses 14-18 use highly graphic language to further describe their feelings. “Many bulls surround me…ripping and tearing, I’m poured out like water… my bones have fallen apart…my heart is like wax, it melts inside me…I can count all my bones…” How powerful these images are, possibly describing our experiences of being engulfed by a pounding headache, or weakened by an infection, or impatient for a broken bone to heal, or overwhelmed by fear, or despairing by unwanted weight loss. We know these feelings.
But the Scripture doesn’t stop with just the present painful situation; it goes on to present the solution. Verses 19-21 remind us that God is not far away and unconcerned with our suffering. Rather, God is a present strength and does not abandon us. God’s Presence also has emotional content, and we are encouraged by the knowledge that God is with us.
O Holy One, when we are in pain help us to trust that You are with us, upholding us, and strengthening us, and when we know of others who are in pain, help us bring the good news of your Presence to them, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rev. Judith Johnson-Siebold, Ph.D. is a United Methodist clergywoman in the Upper New York Conference who writes children’s books.
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