I spent Sunday afternoon and evening in an emergency room with an elderly family member. God showed up in the kindness of pre-warmed sheets, wrapping us in care. As the hours inched passed, all reports and test results provided much-needed reassurance. Finally, long after sundown, the doctor graciously wrote prescriptions to relieve the most troubling symptoms. We left grateful and giving thanks for a good outcome but worn out in the waiting.
Keeping company with affliction wears heavy on the mind, body, and soul.
Psalm 22 takes the reader on a journey from the opening lines of anguish and isolation on the cross to this final section (verses 22-31) of hope-filled praise in the assembly with the family of believers. Worship and testimonies overflow and alter the atmosphere. However, the Lord still acknowledges suffering, and He never turns away from the afflicted.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he had not hidden his face from him but has heard when he cried to him. (Psalm 22:22-24 ESV)
We are called to share our stories of God’s faithfulness. These stories must be communicated in spaces and places where believers can encourage one another. Our testimonies bring glory to God. Just as suffering can way us down, sharing praise reports in the assembly uplifts us. The examples of God’s faithfulness lift us onto our feet, and our hands are raised to praise Him.
Even as we are joining together to give God praise, He reminds us about how He does not turn away from our suffering. Verse 24 says that God hears us, God sees us, and He does not turn away from our affliction. Because God does not turn away from our suffering, we must also be willing to keep company with the afflicted. This call to action cannot be accomplished in our strength. We can draw near to some of the most challenging situations by asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen us. In a society that so often refuses to see, hear or acknowledge suffering, believers have a sacred obligation to be fully present with suffering and the affliction of those He calls us to love.
Keeping company with the afflicted causes us to face our weaknesses and our inability to fix things. No amount of positive thinking or affirmations can create adequate relief when our loved ones are suffering or if we are afflicted.
Who is God calling me to keep the company in a season of suffering?
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever! (Psalm 22:25-26 ESV)
Verse 25 points to how our praise comes from God and is turned back to Him. We respond to God with praise and thanksgiving because He is the giver of all we have.
Is it possible that the “great congregation,” verse 25 mentions, refers to the ultimate praise party we all will gather together for when Jesus returns to rule the earth? I believe the Lord kindly gives us previews of this ultimate praise party every time we gather with fellow believers for prayer and praise.
Verse 26 promises that those suffering and afflicted will experience future healing, nurturing, and satisfaction. There will be no lack in the new heaven and new earth.
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. 28 For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. 29All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. (Psalm 22:27-29 ESV)
Every Tribe and Every Nation
All the families of the nations shall worship –every knee shall bow and worship King Jesus. God has called us to go to the ends of the earth to tell every tribe and nation of the good news of Jesus Christ. In the next fifteen years, Bible translation organizations worldwide are joining forces to translate the Bible into every language. People must hear the gospel in their mother tongue to know Jesus cares for them.
Verse 28 reminds us that, “Kingship belongs to the LORD.” He rules and has authority in my life and over the nations. Whether every tribe and nation acknowledge Him or not, He still rules. I know I need that reminder. Every single day the news trumpets all the chaos of this world. A steady diet of those headlines could lead us to give up hope. So how do we counter that?
For every minute spent watching the news, can I spend an equal amount reading my Bible?
30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it. (Psalm 22:30-31 ESV)
Stories To Be Told
The final verses of Psalm 22 proclaim the privilege we have. We will be honored to tell babies about what the Lord has done. My stories will be passed down from one generation to another. Ask the Lord about this “next generation.” How can you love them well? Who are the young women with young children God has placed around you? Do you have grandchildren to share stories with? Do you have nieces or nephews? Or grandnieces or nephews? Do you have neighbors with little ones? Has the Lord sent little ones who need to be loved well to your church?
What stories can you share of God’s faithfulness today? Who has God placed in your path? Who is in your sphere of influence?
He has done it….
Finally, the Lord reminds us that, “He has done it.”
This psalm begins in the depth of despair and ends with a powerful reminder.
Are you talking about what the Lord has done?
Lord, thank you that you have done it. You have done it all. Thank you that even when I don’t feel it, you rule. Send your Holy Spirit to help me tell others about you and be present in suffering with those I love. Thank you for the sacred calling of sharing both stories of goodness and Your grace in times of affliction. In Jesus’ name, Amen.