My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest. Psalm 22:1-2
I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! Psalm 22:22-23
I spent Spring Break in Orlando, doing the theme park thing. Universal, Disney…and roller coasters. Sometimes I don’t do so well on roller coasters. It’s not the huge lifts. It’s not the plunging drops. It’s not the twisting turns. What gets to me is the cumulative effect of all of them…again and again and again. I feel sick just remembering.
David, the writer of poetry and shepherd of sheep and singer of songs and dancer of dances and slayer of giants and armies…David, the writer of so many of the Psalms…exhausts me! He is just so very dramatic, don’t you think? His “highs” are so much higher than I can even imagine and his lows are so much lower than I can connect with. He is an emotional roller coaster!
Me? Not so much, really. I am pretty even-keeled. But I do know the feeling of being “lost” in myself…of feeling so sorry for myself that I lose sight of anyone else around me. My emotional roller coaster may not have the neck-breaking turns and heart-stopping plunges which David’s had…but I can at least connect with the desire to stop the ride so I can get off!
Here is an important thing about David: as emotionally unpredictable as he appears to be, his ongoing walk with the Lord was rock solid. There was no unpredictability there. When he was high, he danced for the Lord. When he was low, he cried out to the Lord. He illustrates this beautifully in Psalm 22. There, he spends 21 verses downright dark and depressed. Sitting squarely in the middle of his own circumstances and being completely “within” himself, he is gloomy and hurting and desperate. He cannot seem to see outside of those circumstances. They consume him. He sees no options, no alternative routes. And he is very much alone in that painful place…”Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.” He was at that place of just wanting the roller coaster to stop so he could get off. And then, he shows us how to do that.
With a brilliant and healthy turn, verse 22 and following show an entirely different emotion. David is (quite suddenly) outwardly focused…on God and on others. He is prayerful for others. He is praising God. He is no longer all wrapped up in his own misery, nor is he any longer consumed by his own circumstances. He is now outwardly focused. In pretty short order, he has gotten outside of himself.
It is the kind of spiritual wisdom I want to have. I want to learn to catch myself completely drowning in stress and darkness and circumstances beyond my control, and to then turn outward and praise God and pour into others. Isn’t that what we do as ministers? I’m not talking about pretense here…I do not mean “pretending” the circumstances do not exist. I just mean fixing my focus on something healthy and healing and bigger than my circumstances.
I want to be more like David…minus the roller coaster. :)