Psalm 22: Forsaken By God
Life can be a crucible. A crucible is a container in which metal is heated to such a high temperature that it melts. I imagine this analogy is too often appropriate for how many of us feel about our lives. We feel beaten down, discouraged, put under intense pressure and heat that we sometimes just want to melt away or sink into oblivion rather than face the next challenge that may come our way. For the Christian, it can be made worse by the feeling that God has left us, abandoned us to face the heat of life on our own. Perhaps we even think, “if God really loved me, why wouldn’t he make the hurt stop?” Why wouldn’t God take away the pain, the heartache, the fear and uncertainty about the future?
The only real answers to those questions, or any understanding at all of the trials and tribulations of life, are found squarely in the Word of God. And when suffering, the Psalms are often the best balm for the burned soul. The psalmists, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, poured out their hearts before God in the midst of life’s fiery tests. Psalm 22, a psalm of David, is one of the most helpful. Starting out with the cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” immediately makes the anguish of David very real in our minds. Even David, the man after God’s own heart, felt forsaken by God. How comfortable to know that even the best of us can feel this way. He felt surrounded by his enemies. He felt like his bones were out of joint. His heart felt like melting wax within him. Yet it was the feeling of abandonment by God that most ached his heart. How could you, God who have been my refuge and strength, now leave me alone in the hour of most need?
The depth of David’s pain was only outmatched by the height of his trust in the goodness of God. Throughout the psalm, when David pours out a cry of anguish, he immediately responds with a “yet you,” a statement of trust in God’s goodness and power. For David, and for the believer, the moments of greatest trouble must also be the moments of greatest trust. For David, the crucible of pain and suffering could lead to only one place: “praise in the great congregation” (v25). You see, the metal-worker’s crucible, that place where metal is melted, is also the place where the dross, the impurity is removed, and the metal can be hardened and fashioned for its intended use. Without the fire, the metal is useless. It is only through the fire that the metal can now be used. David understood this well.
Yet David’s words in Psalm 22 were not only spoken by Him. Our Lord Himself echoed these words, but in a way that David could never have. As the only-begotten Son of the Father, He was forsaken, truly forsaken, by His own Father, as the sins of all God’s elect throughout history were placed upon Him and the infinite wrath of God was poured out. The Lord of Glory became a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He experienced not only mocking and hatred by his fellow man but the cup of God’s wrath as He atoned for our sin. It is because the Son of God was truly forsaken by the Father that the children of God can say that we never will be forsaken. Even in the midst of life’s most devastating circumstances, the believer can rest assured that because Christ was forsaken, we never will be.
In a letter to his mother-in-law, John Knox, the great Scottish reformer, offers these words of hope. May his words to his dear mother encourage your heart.
“And therefore, abide patiently the Lord’s deliverance to the end, remembering that our Head has entered into his kingdom by troubles and dolours [pains] without number; yea, it may be said that every hour was anguish and pain, increasing in our Savior Jesus from the hour that his Majesty received our mortal nature, until the rendering up the Spirit in the hands of his Father; after that, most lamentably he had complained in these words, ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me;’ which words, deeply considered by us, shall relieve a great part of our spiritual cross. For if such was the only Son entreated, and if it becomes the members to be like the Head, why should we despair under such tribulations? He did not only suffer poverty, hunger, blasphemy, and death, but also he did taste the cup of God’s wrath against sin, not only to make full satisfaction for his chosen people, but also that he might learn to be pitiful to such as are tempted. And therefore, despair not, for your troubles are the infallible signs of your election in Christ’s blood, being ingrafted in his body.”[i]
Keith Kauffman attended University of Maryland (B.S.) and Capital Bible Seminary(M.Div.). Keith currently works at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, working in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases studying the immune response to Tuberculosis. Keith serves as an elder at Greenbelt Baptist Church.
[i] The Works of John Knox, Vol III, Ed David Laing, Banner of Truth, p377. Language updated to modern English, emphasis mine.