The reality of suffering and faith is something that many Christians struggle with. After all, we can wonder how a person with God in their lives, can still experience the depths of desperate times.
Psalm 22 does not attempt to explain why people of faith face such hardships; rather it simply accepts that as reality. Its intention was probably to provide a congregation with a tool to help them identify with others who were going through rough times.
So, have you ever had a time when things had become all too much, and that you’d even felt abandoned by God? And, at the time, did you receive help from anyone in the church?
PART ONE: A LAMENT (1-21)
A. ABANDONED BY GOD:
READ: Psalm 22:1-5
1. Are the words of verse 1 familiar? How does Jesus’ experience on the cross (where he quoted these words), help us understand the depth of despair being expressed?
2. Verse 3 provides a dramatic contrast to verses 1 and 2. So, at this other extreme, what image of God is being described?
3. Verses 4 and 5 provide a glimmer of hope in the midst of despair. How should knowing the stories in the bible, and sharing experiences with other Christians help us, when we are in moments of despair?
B. LESS THAN A MAN
READ: Psalm 22:6-11
4. Despite the glimmer of hope (verses 4-5), in contrast to his image of God, the Psalmist expresses little value for his own life (verse 6-8). Have you ever been through such depths of despair? And if so, how did you feel?
5. Jesus, on the cross, was not only mocked by others, but according to Christian beliefs, also bore the weight of the sins of the world as well. How do you think our sufferings compare with those that Jesus experienced?
6. Verses 9-11 suggest that there can be hope, even in the midst of utter despair. To whom does the Psalmist look for hope? And what place does he put on his own efforts?
C. ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER
READ: Psalm 22:12-21
7. In verses 12-18 there seems to be no end to the things the Psalmist went through. It was just one thing after another. How often in our lives do we seem to go through similar experiences?
8. Jesus himself faced a number of trials in his ministry years. What were some of the things that he faced in his three years of ministry, and what particularly did he go through in the last 12 hours of his life?
9. Despite his prolonged suffering, the Psalmist believed that God could save him from his predicament (verses 19-21). So, whether we are currently going through the depths of despair or not, is that our attitude too? And if so, what is the extent to which we believe that God can save us?
PART TWO: PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING (22-31)
D. PRAISING GOD
READ: Psalm 22:22-31
10. At verse 22, there is a sudden change in the Psalm from “lament” to “praise and thanksgiving”. It reflects the idea that, despite the Psalmist feeling abandoned by God, God had been with him all the time, and that God had come to his rescue. When God rescues us, do we respond with praise and thanksgiving too?
11. When Jesus rose from the tomb on the first Easter Day, the events of the previous days (and years) started to all make sense to the disciples. Once they realized that Jesus had risen from the dead, how did the attitude of the disciples change?
12. When we are consumed with our own affairs it may be very hard for us to see the whole picture. However, the images of verses 25-31 are not just expressions of praise and thanksgiving in response to the Psalmist being rescued by God, but they also provide images of what is to come. What are some of those images? And what part do we play within them?
© 2015, Brian A Curtis