From Devastation to Hope

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.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

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!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it! (Psalm 22 NIV)

Imagine, for a moment, what might have been running through the minds of the disciples as they watched, in horror, their beloved teacher suffering and dying. You may have your own ideas about what they were thinking, based on your own life experiences. Here are some of mine.

We thought he was the One. We thought he would overthrow the government. We thought we would be freed from oppression and from all the injustice the Romans were throwing our way. We thought we would be delivered from all this and invited to live in this Kingdom Jesus kept promising.

Instead, he died.

As we watched him being interrogated, tortured, mocked, scorned, and finally killed in the most unspeakable way, all we could think of was . . . “Three years of our life thrown away.” We left everything behind for him. Nothing was gained. In fact, we’ve lost everything, and now we are fearing for our own lives . . . just because we have been seen with him.

What a colossal disaster!

But, we loved him. We were often confused by his words and teaching, but we trusted him, even in the midst of our unbelief. We can’t go back to our old life. This was the life we wanted, or at least the life Jesus kept talking about.

What are we supposed to do now? It’s such a disappointment! It was too much to watch him suffer, and looking forward is too much to grasp. The grief is suffocating. The regret of how we let him down is too great. The fear is devastating. It feels like there is no way out.

A suffering Messiah is not what we wanted. And now, a dead Messiah.

Fast forward to 2024. I am pondering this invitation to share in Christ’s suffering. When I said yes to following Jesus, I was told things like “salvation,” “eternal life,” and “death has been conquered.” The old made new! I was not prepared for the suffering part of things.

I have been through some very dark valleys. Some involved death. There has been tragedy and irreparable damage. This was not what I signed up for. I resonate with the emotional rollercoaster of Psalm 22, with its statements that range from:

“They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!”

It’s always surprising to me how David can go from utter devastation to hope and praise in one psalm. But I love the wrestling and the running back and forth between the horrific suffering the psalmist was enduring to declarations of truth and hope, hanging on to his faith for dear life as if to say, “Please God, let this be true about you!”

The wrestling is raw and it’s honest. I can get on board with that. I love that the Psalms give us the language we may not have to process the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual pain.

I love how Jesus gives us the courageous model of truth and fulfillment of prophecy as he walks toward the cross.

I am grateful the Gospels give us the road map for following Jesus. It is uncomplicated and simple. But it is not easy. In all this, I take comfort in knowing my Lord and Saviour understands my pain. In the end, the intimacy of sharing in his suffering opens and expands my heart inward toward him and then outward to others in their pain.

To God be the glory. Always.

Deb Judas is part of the NAB Missional Initiatives Team, director of Formation with Forge Canada, and a member of the pastoral team at The Neighbourhood Church in Surrey, British Columbia.