David is on the run. The golden boy - the shepherd who was anointed by God, the champion who slew Goliath - had become an outcast. Banished from the court and hunted by the king he had served so well, David takes refuge in shrines, caves, even the cities of the Philistines whom he had fought on the battlefield. Forced to scrounge for food, David has been abandoned by all but his closest allies. God seems further away than He has ever been, and David is alone.
In this psalm, you can feel David’s anguish and frustration. After all, what had he done wrong?! Why, after years of faithfulness, had God allowed this to happen?! Why were the guilty winning and the righteous hiding in caves? Why had God forsaken him?
David isn’t alone. Many of us have been through times like what David describes. We have experienced grief and loss, been left friendless and alone. Living in this fallen world involves suffering and heartache, and it can be dreadfully, gut-wrenchingly unfair. There will be times in your life when it seems that all hope is lost, all that is good in your life has been torn away, and that even God has abandoned you.
So what do we, as believers, do when our enemies are surrounding us, our health has left us and we feel forsaken by everyone - even God? What lesson can we learn from the hardships David endured?
The first thing we can do is keep talking to God. In this psalm and in others, David is pretty direct with God. He feels like God has abandoned him and treated him unfairly - and he says so. He is infuriated that even though he has been faithful to God, God let this happen to him - and he screams that to the sky as well. David shared his thoughts, his fears, his anger and his accusations with God.
Often we think that prayer has to sound “solemn” and “holy” - that we have to tone down our sadness and frustration as if God might be offended if we were really honest. But God is big enough to handle our grief and anger. He knows - better than we do - what is going on in our lives, and we won’t hurt His feelings by telling Him what we really feel. Keep talking to Him, even if the only way you can do so is through tears.
As you read this psalm, the first line might have seemed familiar. If so, it is likely because Jesus himself quoted it as He hung on the cross: “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).” (Matt. 27:46 NIV)
As David laid his problems at His feet, as he screamed in frustration and suffered through the unfairness of living in a sinful world, he was talking to a God who understood. When he wrote: “...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.” (Psalm 22:16-18 NIV) he was talking to a God who knew exactly what that was like, because He would one day experience it too.
Remember that in your darkest moments that we don’t serve a savior who watches our suffering from a lofty throne and can’t understand our pain. We follow the man who hung on Calvary - who bled and died to forgive the sins of those who nailed Him there. And through it all, He reminds us with nail-scarred hands that He’s been there, and He can show us the way through.