Lent Devotional: Psalm 41
by Jonathan Haefs
Psalm 41 (click here)
Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him…
All who hate me whisper together about me;
they imagine the worst for me.
Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
By this I know that you delight in me:
my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
and set me in your presence forever. (Psalm 41:1, 7, 9, and 11-12)
Everyone I know has had a bad experience with community… even (or maybe even “especially) Christian community.
You have poured out your heart and soul into a particular people. You’ve loved, not perfectly, but truly with the love of Christ.
Then… it happens.
Hurt. Insult. Slander. Betrayal.
Put whatever label on it you want, at the end of the day the would is deep, difficult to heal, and even potentially deadly to your trust in community at all.
In Psalm 41, this is the situation of the Psalmist as he cries out in lament. He has loved a community… poured himself out, especially for the poor and marginalized. He’s cared for them, most likely financially and physically. He has done everything right… so surely the community will do right by him.
But then the slander begins… this whispers and ill wishes.
Then the unthinkable happens. The wounds begin to come from friends… and not the faithful kind (Proverbs 27:6). No. This is friendly fire from the one you used to break bread with… now they are breaking you. You’ve been kicked to the ground by the community and now even your friend raises his heel to step on you like everyone else.
What are we to do when we find ourselves betrayed and beaten? Do we forsake the community of God as we feel it has forsaken us? Do we give up being faithful to God because we feel like his faithfulness has failed?
That is not the solution of the Psalmist!
It’s true that perhaps he needed to be removed from that specific expression of community, and there are times and situations when we will have to remove ourselves from specific churches… but the Psalmist doesn’t just forsake the people of God as a whole and neither should we.
How does he do this?
He holds on to God’s faithfulness believing that his enemies (even those he once counted as friends) will not ultimately triumph! He looks forward in faith to the day when all wrongs will be righted and he will be set in the presence of God forever among a faithful people, a perfected community!
This is the vision we need in order to keep on pressing into community even when we get hurt or we are the ones who do the hurting. We need a vision of the love God has shown to us through the cross of Christ!
Jesus loved us, even as we raised our heels against him. In John 13:18, Christ actually quoted this Psalm in reference to Judas. Yet, he still washed Judas feet and went to the cross out of love for the one who betrayed him.
Broken Christian community is the only kind there is… and we each contribute to it’s brokenness. When we are loved by this community, and we love the community back… we put on display the love of Christ… we love like a cruciform community.