At a time when chaos and terrorism fill the headlines, the well-known 23rd Psalm is of great comfort: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil …"
But there's also remarkable power in the less-heralded psalm that comes just before it. Psalm 22 can bring appreciable confidence to one's prayers at times when one might naturally ask "Why?" "How could this happen?" And even, "Where is God?" The psalm does this by over and over again responding to – and silencing – the fearful voice that can accompany turmoil.
Make no mistake, there is plenty of fear laced throughout the passages of Psalm 22, beginning with the first sentence, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It speaks to what can so easily overtake thought in the face of violent acts – a yearning in our hearts for comfort to come to those who have been devastated by cowardly attacks. And though the fervent question in the psalm's first passage might well be seen as justified in the hour of need, there's remarkable power in the truth of a passage that soon follows: "But thou art holy." This simple declaration speaks of God's purity and goodness. It brings the promise of Love's guidance – a voice that confirms that God is on the field.
Then, the potent truth of God's presence is muffled again by more fear and despair: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels." This view of God as remote or inaccessible is eliminated if we think of God as Mind – a Mind that fills all space, whose very essence is Love. Any depiction of God as out of reach or without comfort can be rejected as impossible, not because of Pollyannaish or head-in-the-sand thinking but because there's practical proof that this Mind directs consciousness toward God, all good.
After the woeful declaration about being "poured out like water," inspiration is on the way a few passages later: "But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me." This illustrates the spiritual receptivity that is the divine right of each one of us – to ascend to the level of thought that lifts and elevates consciousness, and to experience firsthand the divine Mind in charge and at work. In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote, "Fear never stopped being and its action" (p. 151). This truth supports, energizes, and focuses our needed prayers for a troubled world.
As receptivity comes, fear recedes, and more light is shed on ways to live in harmony with God. A passage toward the end of this beautiful psalm confirms: "For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard." We can claim our identity – and the identity of every one of our brothers and sisters on earth – in the Mind that tends and embraces each individual in the grace of comfort and blessing.
And so we find a place in prayer where we can familiarize ourselves with God, who has never known even one of His beloved children as cut off from Love. A God who draws us in, even when – or especially when – it seems hardest to feel close to Him. This is the holy impetus that returns us to our source, our Father-Mother, God.
One of the final messages in Psalm 22 affirms: "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." As we hold humanity close to our hearts, in the embrace of the one God, one Mind, it brings solace – and healing.
The kingdom is the Lord's. Psalms 22:28