Psalm 30: 8-11
Then you hid your face,
and I was filled with fear.
I cried to you, O Lord;
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,
“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me;
O Lord, be my helper.”
Sometimes, keeping faith is hard work. People we love get cancer; or die young. We find ourselves unfairly accused, picked on, berated, or bullied. Shallow self-centered cretins move from success to success while good, hard-working folk get stuck. You don’t need to open your eyes too wide to discover that there’s a lot of unfairness and needless suffering.
And in the middle of that; I sometimes feel just like whomever it was that wrote this psalm. Crying out to God – “don’t you care – don’t you see this?!” It’s times like this that I can almost envy the perfect white smile of the prosperity gospel preacher, and their confidence that all the good things flowing their way are the gifts of a benevolent god who’s singled them out as special.
It’s easy to forget that the one we follow was cruelly mocked and executed as a particularly agonizing spectacle. I can’t imagine crucifixion is a quiet death. Honestly; it’s still a little mind blowing to contemplate Jesus’ suffering.
I don’t hold with the notion that Jesus’ death was needed or required by God the Father. Substitutionary atonement is crap. Jesus lived a life where he looked around and saw the goodness with which the world was created lurking under the surface. When I read about and think about Jesus’ life; it’s his unwavering commitment to responding in love to that goodness that hooked me in the first place and made me want to follow Him.
I get where the psalmist is coming from, but I also think they’re off track. When I lose sight of Jesus; it’s not because Jesus is hiding. It’s because I’ve stood still too long, or averted my gaze and Jesus just keeps on moving; doing his healing work and showing us the goodness. I also know that Jesus will always circle back to find me; stretch his hand, maybe with a wry smile on his face and tell me; “come on, there’s work to do and a feast to attend.”
Jon White is a priest in Syracuse, NY