Three words that strike at the core of Psalm 44: It’s not fair. “Where is the justice?” the songwriter pleads. “We’ve been true to Your covenant; our hearts belong to You. So why do You allow us to be scattered, sold, scorned, shamed?” The honest words of Psalm 44 break me in half because I’ve been there. Have you?
Have you ever felt your chest ache like your heart was being squeezed by a fist? Has there ever been a gaping hole in your stomach, as if a vortex was devouring you from the inside? Or maybe worse, have you ever felt nothing, a cruel numbness like all the humanness was leaching out of you?
If you have felt these things, I’m so sorry. Those words fall woefully short, but they are true. I am so sorry. I notice that, although I am no longer in that place of intense pain, if I allow myself to go back there, I can remember it. My body recalls it. I could try to protect myself from ever looking back on that dark season of my life. I could attempt to lock it away in a box, push it from my mind whenever the contents of that box rattle. But being willing to remember my pain is my deepest source of compassion for others who are suffering. And compassion is not something I’m willing to sacrifice.
Suffering drives me to the only Source of fully trustworthy care I have ever known. My God is so big and powerful, He can handle my hurt and anger, even anger directed toward Him. My God is so upright, He joins me in my outrage at unfairness in the world. In fact, He declares that vengeance is His to take when injustice has reared its ugly head (Deuteronomy 32:35). My God is so steadfast in His kindness. I can rely fully on his hesed, His loyal, unfailing love, because it is who He is. Even when I am angry with him, even when I rage, He remains the same.
Before that dark season, I lived under immature expectations. I believed, like the psalmist, that if I followed God and did what was right and good, if I followed all the rules, I’d be safe. Safe from heartache and pain, safe from injustice. Now I know better. Jesus warned His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble,” (John 16:33), and then he suffered an unfair criminal’s death on a cross. Like the songwriter in Psalm 44 described, He was rejected, He was sold for a pittance, He was scorned and mocked and taunted and disgraced and crushed. And at the end, He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Rejected, abandoned, alone in His suffering. Unafraid to express to His Father how He felt, even if it wasn’t pretty. Even when it was raw and honest.
Whatever season you find yourself in today, whether it overflows with abundance and peace or is a dark night of the soul, I invite you to begin a practice of honesty with God. Follow in the footsteps of your Savior Jesus Christ, who did not hold back in his forthright boldness with His Father. Cry out to Him, knowing that He hears you and cares deeply about you. Not just all people, but you specifically. Don’t hold back. He isn’t surprised, and nothing you tell Him could change who He is. His steadfast love endures forever.