What Christian has not experienced the desperate suffocation of unanswered prayer? The puritans called it “the dark night of the soul,” when it seems as though there is an impenetrable barrier between ourselves and the God to whom we cry.
Hope for those times comes in two of the most striking and famous Psalms in the entire book: Psalms 22 and 23. The 23rd Psalm is one of the more famous texts of scripture in the Bible, and Jesus quotes the 22nd Psalm in the darkest hour of history as God’s wrath falls upon Him. Taken separately, they are invaluable. But what grips me this morning is the fact that they come together, one right after the other.
Psalm 22 begins with that haunting question that we hear echoing from the cross:
“My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?!
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer…”
What an unbearable grief it is when our pleading cries go unanswered by the Lord! This is especially true because our crying out in this way often comes when we are laden with anguish from other heavy circumstances, and the silence from on high is like gasping for air and finding none. Again, what Christian hasn’t experienced this? The Psalmist did. Our Lord Jesus did. We also do.
But look to the very next Psalm? The 22nd – that height of grief and anguish that rip a soul to gasping shreds – melts into the 23rd.
“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me to quiet waters;
He restores my soul.”
From utter grief, to complete peace. This is the habit of our Shepherd. We will certainly experience the anguish of silence. We will certainly walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But after the suffocating silence from on high comes the healing flow of quiet waters. After the darkness of the valley of the shadow comes the warmth and safety of green pastures. It is a certainty!
Do not cease praying, even if His silence brings more anguish! Trust that He is even now leading you to quiet waters.
Do not cease clinging to Him, even if the darkness is so deep that you cannot see Him. Trust that He is even now leading you toward restful healing in green pastures.
Trust Him! At all times, trust Him! Trust Him when the anguish is at it’s height. Trust Him when the darkness is deepest. He will answer. He will lead you through. He is good.