The Process of Recapturing Perspective
I often define discouragement as a “temporary loss of perspective.” Yet, regaining perspective when we are down and despondent is not always easy. Psalm 22 is a powerful Messianic psalm but also a raw and resolute teaching passage on how we move beyond pain to praise and from feelings of gloom to His glory.
Prophecies of Christ’s Sufferings and Glory
In most translations, Psalm 22 is titled, “Why Have You Forsaken Me?” This immediately points us toward the sufferings of Christ and His crucifixion. Numerous verses from this psalm are specifically fulfilled in the death of Christ. They are:
- His prayer, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v. 1)
- The mockery Christ endured, seen in vv. 7 & 8.
- Specific expressions of His suffering seen in vv.14 &15.
- Descriptions of His pierced hands and feet in v. 16.
- The prophecy that Christ’s bones would remain unbroken in v. 17.
- The prediction in verse 18 that “they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
- The resulting fulfillment of Christ’s global gospel mission in vv. 21-31 highlighted, for example, in v. 27: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.”
Clearly this psalm points us to the supernatural nature of biblical prophecies. It births in our hearts profound gratitude for the finished work of Christ. It also helps us identify with the Savior in His sufferings, while also knowing that He intimately identifies with us in ours.
Snapshots of our Struggle
But we cannot forget that this psalm was also written by David in the midst of his own personal struggles. With raw honesty and deep pain, he asks “Why” as he recounts again and again his feelings and fears. This is one thing I love about the Bible. It is not whitewashed of difficult human emotion and struggle. As a result, we realize that God can handle our questions. He can meet us in our despondency. He can powerfully refocus our thoughts and restore our hearts. Today, I remind you that Christ is no stranger to your anguish. God is not surprised by your grievances. The Bible is ultimately helpful to guide you in your struggles as you search for perspective.
The Process of Perspective
By way of a brief review of this psalm, let’s walk through David’s process of recapturing perspective. I often wonder if David wrote the psalm in a single sitting or if, over a period of days, he picked up his quill and continued the spiritual journey toward a deeper trust in God. I am guessing that for most of us, the process of regaining perspective does not always happen in an instant. In any case, I pray you will be helped with this fascinating outline of recovery.
I see eight steps in Psalm 22. They are: 1). Why Me? 2) Yet You, 3). But I, 4). Yet You, 5). But I, 6). But You, 7). I Will, and 8). Others Will. You will find that the psalm is a bit like a pinball pinging back and forth until it eventually reaches the correct destination. As you read below, you will see this progression.
Why Me? (vv. 1 & 2) – David’s prayer begins with candid despondency, questioning God over his deep feelings of abandonment. David groans. God feels far away. He keeps crying out but there is no answer. Does this feel familiar at all? I am so glad the Lord invites us to “pour out our hearts before him” (Psalm 62:8), whatever they might bleed at the time.
Yet You (vv. 3 – 5) – David then flips an internal switch declaring to God, “Yet, you are holy.” He acknowledges that God is praiseworthy and has delivered and rescued David’s spiritual fathers when they cried out and truly trusted in Him. We all can look back over the generations and embrace this truthful testimony.
But I (vv. 6 – 8 ) – Next, David slips back into despondency, “But I am a worm and not a man.” He feels defeated by the scorn, despising, and mockery of his enemies. How often are we similarly defeated by the demeaning words of people and hostility from the world? Thus, we lose perspective.
Yet You (vv. 9 & 10) – David then pings back to clarity: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb.” He recounts God’s faithfulness, not just to others, but in every stage of his own life from birth to the present moment. Perhaps he was taking his own advice at the moment and feeding on God’s faithfulness (Psalm 37:3 – NKJV).
But I (vv. 11 – 18) – As he keeps processing, David slips back to the emotion of the moment. God still feels far. Trouble is near. He feels no help from anywhere. He describes his situation like being surrounded by strong bulls, frightened by ravenous and roaring lions, and trapped by wild dogs. His heart feels as though it is melting like wax. He exclaims that his strength is gone, his tongue is stuck, and he feels God has laid him “in the dust of death.”
But You (vv. 19 – 21) – Returning to surpassing thoughts about God, he affirms that God is “not far off” and will come quickly to his aid. He embraces God’s sure deliverance and power. He declares that God will save and rescue him from the beasts that attack. Are you sensing the back and forth of David’s struggle? Does it seem all too familiar?
I Will (vv. 22 – 25) – Now David finds the grace to set his focus and resolve. He pronounces, “I will tell of your name.” He resolves to give great praise to God, enlisting others to also give God glory and “stand in awe of him.” He testifies that the Lord has not despised his affliction but has heard his cry. Spiritual sanity prevails as David goes on to say, “My vows I will perform before those who fear him.” He remembers his duty, his testimony before others, and the sure promise of his calling. How needful for so many of us right now.
Others Will (vv. 26 – 31) – Finally, David looks past himself to see the Lord who has redeemed his pain in order to inspire others. He speaks of others who are afflicted and will seek the Lord. Their “hearts will live forever!” David embraces the joy of a God-given mission as he envisions the ends of the earth turning to the Lord and the nations worshiping. He declares God’s rule over the nations and envisions the testimony of the Lord to coming generations: “They shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.”
From Our Gloom to His Glory
As I reflect on these lessons, I realize that all of us must embrace the painful course of getting over ourselves. We might start by being raw and honest about the real content of our hearts and our feelings about the situations. We must fight for a holy obsession with the character of God, even if it feels like two steps forward and three steps back. By the grace of Christ, we can recognize that He rules over our lives. He is faithful to His promises and calls us to a glorious mission to serve others for the sake of the gospel and for the good of coming generations.
What I find so beautiful about this psalm is that as David turned to the Lord, his prayer was punctuated with inspired prophecies of Christ. The Lord took his honest discouragement and has turned countless generations to look upon the cross of Jesus with awe and obedience. So today, let the Lord turn your gloom into His glory as you seek him in honest, persistent, believing prayer for the honor of Jesus and His mission.
Copyright ©2017 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
Special Note: Did you know that we have published two wonderful books containing some of our best devotionals? They are titled, Keeping Perspective (CLICK HERE to check it out) and Keeping Perspective II (CLICK HERE). We know you will enjoy them and want to share a copy with a friend.