Daily Devotion – April 2, 2020 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison

Psalm 22: 1-2

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

If you are anything like me, you wonder what caused David to feel God-forsaken enough to write this lament. What trouble was he in? Was it as he grieved the death of his friend Jonathan? Was it after a humiliating defeat in battle? And how did it happen that Jesus, as he was humiliated and scorned and left to die hung high in public, called out the opening verse of this psalm of David?

As the Covid 19 viral pandemic continues its sweep across the whole world, are those packed into refugee camps lamenting in this way? Are those who have to die alone in hospital wards calling out to God that they feel forsaken? And what about the families of those who are dying, who cannot surround their loved one to prove he or she is indeed not forsaken?

Tom Wright, the British theologian, wrote an essay this week about the Christian response to this awful pandemic. He said it is not a good reflection of Christianity to call this disease a judgement, as so many did when AIDS was sweeping the world. He said it is not a good reflection of Christian beliefs to call this a test of faith, for we believe in a God who does not put us to the test. Instead, says Wright, it is a fine reflection of our faith to lament. Lament! Just like Psalm 22. Laments are a rich part pf our scriptures. We lament, along with our brothers and sisters. I am thinking especially of folks in South Africa, where I worked with church leaders over a six year period. Their townships and squatter camps are filled with people who have come from poorer places in Africa just to look for a better job and a better life. And they will be among the thousands there to die because they have no way to be apart from one another, to social distance. What can I do, thinking of them? Lament. Cry that we feel forsaken. Grieve the loss of life that always comes from plagues.

Lament is a holy Christian response. Jesus did it. He wept with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died. He lamented as he himself hung on the cross. When you love and then you stand on the threshold of loss, you lament. Read the psalms and find the laments that speak to you. You will be glad you did.

Dear Lord God, When we feel we have been forsaken by you and by our human companions, remind us that it is holy to lament and to grieve. And when we lament, tell us once again that you are standing with us in these times of grief and loss. Our God stands with us, even when we cannot feel it. Amen.