One ordinary Sunday night, I was the victim of a violent crime. It didn’t matter that I’d been a “good girl” and gone to church earlier that day. My exemplary behavior was no talisman. It did not surround me like a magical shield. It did not keep my house safe from criminals.
In the wake of that trauma, I turned to the psalms of lament. The pleas in those verses gave voice to my own visceral sense of despair. Knowing I was not the first to feel this way was a small comfort—but a comfort nonetheless. Millennia ago, the psalmist felt abandoned by God. Even Jesus felt abandoned, quoting these verses from the cross. Psalm 22 reminded me that I was not entirely abandoned even in my experience of feeling abandonment.
The psalm doesn’t stay where it begins; it ends by expressing a confident faith. “I will praise you in the great assembly,” verse 25 says. But there’s no need to rush through the psalm. Sometimes life has us lingering in the early verses. It’s possible to voice our darkest lamentations and still be faithful.
If you’re unfamiliar with feelings of abandonment, perhaps the face of someone you care about is coming to mind. Perhaps you’ve felt hesitant to reach out to her because of her pain. Emotional pain is alienating, even when it belongs to someone else. Receive Psalm 22 as a gift—the permission to express what seems inexpressible and the comfort of knowing that feelings of abandonment are part of the life of discipleship.
Ruth Everhart is a Presbyterian pastor and the author of Ruined, which received a 2017 book award from Christianity Today. You can find her at rutheverhart.com, on Twitter at @rutheverhart, or on Facebook at RuthEverhartAuthor.