Scripture – Psalm 22
Psalm 22 & Spiritual Somersaults
By Wendy Connelly
Our spoken words are incantations casting spells upon our lives. I’m convinced of it. I think the Psalmist was, too. It’s why the Psalms are heralded as Scripture’s most transformative texts, warbled songs rocketing to the meteoric heights and plummeting to the God-forsaken depths of our collective existence. Never is this more apparent than in Psalm 22, which contains those haunting words Jesus uttered from the cross:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Because just as the words echo from the despairing tomb, they do a stunning about-face and rise with sudden hope:
“Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One.”
And the rhythm continues to wobble between this tension of despair and hope, death and life:
Why? Yet. But. Do not. I am. I will.
Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann describes the Psalms in three movements: Psalms of orientation, disorientation and reorientation.
Orientation: life makes sense
Disorientation: life makes no sense
Reorientation: God makes sense of life again
In Psalm 22, we entertain all three movements, many times over! A study was published in the journal American Anthropologist looking at how the Psalms helped Israeli women cope during the 2006 Lebanon war*. The research showed that Psalm recitation powerfully reduced anxiety in the war zone, buffering stress for these women as their lives were turned upside-down. The ritual of reciting the Psalms aloud—and thus speaking the spiritual somersaults of orientation/disorientation/reorientation—is a potent soul tonic, a stress-binding incantation.
Today, whether life makes perfect sense or seems deliriously absurd, I challenge you to recite Psalm 22 aloud. Trust in these ancient-living words, in all their paradoxical glory, to orient, disorient, reorient and transform you. Let the Bible live in you today. Speak it—truly speak it—and it will speak to you.
* Sosis, Richart and W. Penn Handwerker. American Anthropologist, “Psalms and Coping with Uncertainty: Religious Israeli Women’s Responses to the 2006 Lebanon War,” 15 February 2011.
Wesley’s Challenge Questions for the Week:
- Did the Bible live in me today?
- Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?