Psalm 23 is a favorite at funerals. People have heard it at funerals when emotions were soft and tender, so the Psalm is remembered and reused at funerals over and over again as if it is the best Psalm to communicate our grief.
Have you ever read Psalm 22?
I don't think Jesus ever quotes Psalm 23 directly, but Jesus definitely remembered and borrowed from Psalm 22. Psalm 22 begins:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
That first line stuck with Jesus, and he breathed it in his time of deep distress.
In our culture, we prefer words like Psalm 23 and seldom invite or appreciate sentiments like Psalm 22.
I've seen an athlete get hurt by a bad tackle and hit the ground groaning in agony and grabbing their knee. The parent screamed from the sideline, "Suck it up! Brush it off! Get back in there!" The player had torn their ACL and was out for a year. The parent's reaction did not wait, did not listen for the pain, did not want to see the suffering. The parent expected toughness, performance, excellence.
A co-worker is underperforming one day, forgetting things and making mistakes. Others in the office say things like, "He'd better get it together," or "What's her problem?" Do we dare wonder and ask, "Hey, how are you today?" If we did ask, would our coworker dare respond honestly? "My mom is dying," or "My son drinks too much," or "I'm being evicted this weekend."
Today, may our prayers be for anyone who feels forsaken. Pray for those who feel shamed or silenced by others for their sincere worries and fears. Pray for those who are sick and tired, but put on plastic happy-face every day to not burden others. Pray for those who are asked "How are you?" and respond with a generic, "I'm fine," even when they aren't.
Jesus didn't hide his feeling of abandonment, confusion, or forsakenness. He said it out loud. Many misunderstood him.
May this church forever be a safe and understanding place for all those who feel forsaken.
Blessings, laughter, and loving be yours,
Rev. Joel L. Tolbert