Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Do Not Be Far From Me: A Good Friday Reflection

Lindsey SmallwoodComment

The following is a reflection on Psalm 22 that I shared at my church as part of our Good Friday worship service. 

Psalm 22

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help...

In Psalm 22, David is afraid.  Dogs are chasing him.  People who hate him are publicly mocking his and casting lots for his clothes.  There are lions roaring in the night.  He prays:

Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help. 

I've never known murderous enemies or night lions but this is a prayer that has resonated deeply in many seasons of my own life. 

In junior high, high school, college, the trouble came from within.  Self-doubt, body image issues, an obsession with being and looking a certain way.  

By my junior year of college, I had to drop out of school in order to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.  I was confined to a wheelchair because the doctors were concerned about the damage I'd done to my heart through weight loss.  I was literally broken-hearted.  

Having ignored the faith I'd grown up with for a long time, I nonetheless found myself in desperation praying a prayer like David's:

Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help. 

Fast forward a few years and I found myself working as a special ed teacher in inner city Oakland. I loved my job but trouble was everywhere.  

An unwashed 4th grader in shoes 3 sizes too small.

Budget cuts that left us without basic supplies like toilet paper and crayons. 

A sunny afternoon when I was held up at gunpoint by two teenagers at the flagpole. 

An eleven-year-old who attempted suicide on the elementary school play structure. 

Many days it just felt like too much. And again, I would often pray a prayer not so different from this one:

Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help. 

When my husband and I decided to start a family, I was dreaming up baby names before we'd had the chance to try.

Soon we found ourselves expecting our first child. The first doctors visit went great.  We felt excited and lucky and blessed and so full of dreams. 

Then, at 13 weeks along, we went for an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat.  Just a tiny little body, clearly outlined and perfectly still.

Losing that baby was losing our dream about who we were together and what our family would be.  

On my 30th birthday, sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office, waiting for the procedure that would complete my miscarriage, I cried a prayer to the God who felt so cruel, so incomprehensible and yet still, I knew, so faithful.

Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help. 

Two months ago we moved to Boulder for my husband's job at the University.  I'm at home with our two little boys, making the most of these loud, messy, beautiful, exhausting days that feel like they all bleed into each other. I'm more tired than I've ever been.

I'm homesick for California, for our dear friends who lived across the street and tomatoes from the garden and the ocean and my book club and the familiar feeling of a place that's home.  

And add to that - starting over in a new place is tough - wondering what this season will be for, where will we fit, and how long will we even be here. And in the midst of all that uncertainty, there's still the very real longing to be known and loved and wanted.  

And here I find myself coming back to David's prayer.  

It's a hymn of hope and declaration of lament.

It speaks to the reality of our suffering, no matter what season we're in.  

And it declares the desperate need we have for God to come close.  

I pray it today in my fears about the future,

in my doubt about my worthiness,

in my hope for God's great comfort and

in my loneliness, right where I am. 

Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.