“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,” – Shakespeare, Sonnet 29
“No, you do NOT understand.” she snaps at his attempt at comfort. She is right, he has not walked a mile in her heels, but at a loss for words he had tried to soothe her anguish with the words “I understand.” For he did know something about pain and loneliness. He had experienced his version of it. Her exact feelings and circumstances? No, those he did not truly understand.
I once had a job that did not allow its employees to say “I understand.” Why? To avoid the situation above, to avoid a stressed customers snapped reply of “No you do NOT understand.” We were allowed to say “That situation can be frustrating.” “That is upsetting.” and other empathy statements, but we were to never “understand”. When a friend comes to us with a problem we empathize, we recall a similar situation, and we can feel similar hurts, but we do not truly understand. Every situation, every set of feelings, is going to be unique to the person who feels them.
That is why when we hurt, when we are upset, when we are depressed, when we are struggling, it is also easy to feel so terribly alone.
My devotions this morning brought me to Hebrews 2:12. “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” That is the line that glared from my computer screen as I read from BibleGateway.com. Okay, another verse about how awesome God is and how we should sing Him praises. I pictured a choir of angels and saints standing on golden stairs set upon the clouds, a heavenly choir praising God. I clicked the button that expands the reading into its context, the whole chapter of Hebrews 2.
As I near chapter 12 my mental image has to change.
” 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
This verse was not about us praising God, but about Jesus being with us, suffering and dying as us, in order to help us praise God. It is about Jesus being a part of his human family. He is a part of our choir. That is cool. We are reminded in these verses that Jesus was fully human, “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family”.
I scroll down to the bottom of the page, down to the footnotes. Point “h” tells me that Hebrews 2:12 has a connection to Psalm 22:22. I flip through the webpages to find that verse and I see the same words,
“I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.”
I expand out to put the verse into context. The author of Hebrews definitely quoted the psalmist, but why these words? Why would he need to use this specific quote?
Go read Psalm 22, it is a cry of pain. It is the life of a human, one of trials and hurts. He fears that God does not hear him, he fears that he is alone. He is scorned, despised, and mocked by his peers. Bulls, lions, and dogs attack him, he is thirsty, he is in pain, he is near death. Then he realizes that God is not far away, and His strength will indeed ease his pain and will save him in the end.
That is the psalmists’ message, but look closer at the words he uses,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.“He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him.”
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.”
“My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth”
“A pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.”
“They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
Scrolling back up to the top I had to check that I was indeed in Psalms, and not one of the gospels. I had to double-check that I was back in the Old Testament and not reading about Jesus’ crucifixion.
The psalmist was never alone. Jesus understood his pain, and Our Savior understood it fully. Everything the psalmist was crying out about, every pain and suffering, was the suffering of our God.
He understands. We are not alone. The Message jazzes up our Psalm 22:22 verse for us,
“Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.”
He was right there listening and he is right there, at the throne of God, lifting up our names, the names of his family. He wants us to know that he has fought, suffered, and died for us and we never have to be alone. He has walked
a mile a lifetime in our shoes. He understands.