Lenten Devotional 2021: Day 15

Wednesday, March 3 – Written by Nora Sanders

Praise? – Psalm 22:23-31

Photo credit: Nora Sanders

You who fear the Lord, praise him!  That is the first line in the passage from Psalm 22 that I am to reflect on.

Interesting, that word “praise.”

That was my word last year. At the beginning of 2020 when each of us at Islington United was given a word to lift up through the year, my word was “praise.”

Praise did not always come easily in 2020. The hopeful plans and comfortable assumptions that we started the year with began to unravel in the middle of March when things shut down “temporarily” because of COVID19. As the two week closures stretched into months, with no end in sight, we all experienced disappointments, worry, and loss. Then, in the midst of the pandemic last spring, the police killing of George Floyd in Milwaukee came as a painful reminder of the racism that cuts so deeply in our world.

Praise, really? Maybe we all should have received the word “lament” for 2020.

Back to Psalm 22 … The first several verses before our selected passage, is all about lament. This psalm starts with the words, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  We know these words from the cry of Jesus on the cross, but he would have known them from this psalm. It is a psalm that speaks of cries of anguish, of inability to rest, of feeling unheard by God, of feeling alone in a time of trouble.

It is painful to read the opening part of Psalm 22; many today may identify with its litany of complaints. But then, after the outpouring of hopelessness, it shifts to a strong tenor of hope. Of confidence that God will be there to care for God’s people.

The word that makes this shift in the middle of the psalm is “praise.

When we lament, when we complain, we focus on ourselves. We lift up our disappointments and hardships. In the midst of hardship it can be hard to think beyond ourselves and the loss or hurt that we are experiencing.

Praise, by its very nature, makes us think beyond ourselves. Praise forces us to recognize goodness. Praising God is a way of recognizing God’s goodness that surrounds us even when we feel alone.  Praising God is a way of expressing faith in a loving God who is so much greater than whatever troubles we are experiencing in this moment.

I am going to keep the word “praise.” I still need to hear it – and use it.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!  

God, we praise you. We give thanks for your loving presence in our lives, even in the times when it seems that we are alone. Thank you God for hearing our hurt, our anger, our unhappiness, and for loving us through it all. Open our hearts to you, oh God, as we praise you. Amen