The one who has been abused, or is still being abused, has many needs. Protection, safety, and defense are some of the practical needs that must be met as a result of God’s command to love our neighbor as we already love ourselves. However there is a need—the need—that is greatest of all.
The deepest need of all is a soul-need, a need that can only be met by the one who is the Lover of our Souls. The need of the soul is to find rest and security in the One who knows all of their sufferings and cares deeply for them. They need to know the One who is working out His larger, redemptive purposes while at the same time deeply caring about them as individual sufferers living in a sinful world.
“Abuse stirs up all kinds of questions,” writes biblical counselor John Henderson: ‘How do I face and understand the abuses I have suffered in the past?’ ‘Where was God, and why did he allow it?’ ‘What am I to think of him…of myself…of the pain?’ ‘Was it God’s will for me to be abused?’ ‘Did my abuse grieve and anger him?’ ‘By not stopping it, was he a part of it?’ ‘How am I supposed to believe that God loves me if, according to his sovereign purpose, he ordained for me to be treated with such brutality?’”
Therefore, we as ministers of grace, and counselors of truth, need a sound theological framework for ministry to the abused. Scripture, as a whole, forms this framework. But there are also specific passages that are especially helpful. Psalm 22 is one of them. Perhaps no other psalm describes the intensity of suffering in a broken and fallen world like Psalm 22.
Here we see the reality of abuse and the intensity of its effects upon a person’s life—upon the very soul. But, here, we also find hope that transcends the abuse. We find truth that feeds the soul that thinks he cannot go on any longer.
His Suffering (vv. 1-2, 6-21)
Here we read a description of the psalmist’s troubles and his abuse. Some commentators insist that Psalm 22 is purely prophetic, that it only refers to Christ and His then future sufferings. However, I think that is not accurate. Surely the psalm is first an accurate description of an oppressed man’s sufferings and his desperate faith in a God who seems to have abandoned him. Here are the forms of abuse that he suffered:
- Deep sense of abandonment, loss of relationship (vv. 1-2)
- Despised by others (v. 6)
- Looks of contempt, mocking gestures (v. 7)
- Verbal assault and insult (v. 8)
- Alone, in trouble, no one on earth who can help (v. 11)
- Surrounded by enemies (vv. 12-13)
- Crushed spirit, physical exhaustion to the point of death (v. 14-15)
- Intense pain, physical abuse (v. 16)
- Humiliation (v. 17)
- Shame of nakedness (v. 18)
- Need for outside help (vv. 19-21)
His Strength (vv. 3-5, 9-10, 19-21)
God is the basis, or foundation, of his strength. Here the psalmist rehearses in his mind, and before God in prayer, truths about the Lord who is His strength.
- God is holy (v. 3)
- God is sovereign (3b)
- God is trustworthy (4)
- God is dependable (v. 5)
- God is near (vv. 9-10)
- God is his help (v. 19-21)
His Savior (vv. 22-31)
In verse 22 to the end of the psalm he determines to tell of the name of the Lord, his Savior. His Lord does not despise the one who is afflicted, nor does He despise his affliction (v. 24).
What is the name of his Savior? It is the Messiah of whom this Psalm specifically prophecies. David believed in Him as his Greater Son, the Lion of Judah, and the Root of Jesse.
We know His name. His name is Jesus. And it is His suffering that is also described here. In fact, the abuse and crucifixion of Jesus is described with such detail it is as if we are reading a news account written after-the-fact. Yet it was 1,000 years before Christ was born. Psalm 22 is one of the greatest testimonies to the integrity of Scripture. Surely, the Holy Spirit alone could have predicted these events through this song of David.
Let’s review the psalmist’s suffering as it relates to Jesus. Take time to read the passages that are listed under each.
- Deep sense of abandonment, loss of relationship (vv. 1-2). See Mark 15:33-34.
- Despised by others (v. 6). See Isaiah 53:3.
- Looks of contempt, mocking gestures (v. 7). See Mark 15:27-30.
- Verbal assault and insult (v. 8). See Mark 15:31-32 and Luke 23:39.
- Alone, in trouble, no one on earth who can help (v. 11). See Matthew 26:38-40.
- Surrounded by enemies (vv. 12-13). See Matthew 26:43-46.
- Crushed spirit, physical exhaustion to the point of death (v. 14-15). See John 19:28-30.
- Intense pain, physical abuse (v. 16). See John 19:1-3 and Luke 23:33.
- Humiliation (v. 17). See Luke 23:35.
- Shame of nakedness (v. 18). See Matthew 27:28, 35.
- Need for outside help (vv. 19-21). See Mark 14:35-36 and 15:20-21.
Do we have a Savior who understands abuse?
Hebrews 3:1 instructs us to “Therefore, consider Jesus, the High Priest.” “Therefore” takes us back to 2:14-18, where we are reminded that it is the Lord Jesus’ full experience of humanity, which includes every form of his suffering, which qualifies Him to minister empathetically to anyone who has been abused.
The Lord Jesus has suffered more intensely than any of us can imagine. He has been used and abused and mistreated in every possible way. So, we must use the Scriptures as the basis for asking questions, such as:
- Do you feel abandoned? Do you feel the deep loss of relationship?
- Are you despised by others, perhaps even those whom you love?
- Have people looked at you with hatred and contempt?
- Have you endured verbal assault and insults?
- Do you feel alone, and in trouble, with no one on earth who can help you?
- Do you sense that you are surrounded by enemies, the devil being the Chief?
- Is your spirit wounded and crushed? Are there times that you feel you cannot live any longer, or do not wish to?
- Are you being abused physically?
- Do you feel humiliated and ashamed?
- Do you need help from others, from those who will administer compassion?
Is there someone who understands all of the trouble and the pain of abuse? Yes. Is there someone who will come to the aid of those who suffer? Yes. “Consider Jesus,” the Bible says. For He is a merciful High Priest who delights to intercede for broken sinners.
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Jesus says to every sinner, “Come to Him, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and He will give you rest. Come to Me. Trust Me. I will never cast you out. [Matthew 11:28-30; John 6:37]