Living with the Black Dog

Psalm 22 and Matthew 27.35-46

Black Dog, often used as a metaphor for depression, is regularly attributed to Winston Churchill although its use can be traced to earlier authors.  It is a metaphor not limited to depression but it does convey an ominous presence that is not under our control where it imposes strong negative influences on our minds.

Psalm 22 is an intense personal lament written by David in a time of great personal despair.  David probably wrote the psalm whilst fleeing from either Saul or Absalom although the intensity of suffering in verses 12 to 18 far outstrips anything David is recorded to have experienced.  The resonance with Jesus sufferings is pronounced both in words spoken and the derision of his treatment. Matt 27.35-46  The mental and physical suffering described in the psalm oppresses him spiritually.

The psalmist feels deserted by God and his desperate prayers are unanswered. v1  He cries in the daytime and cannot sleep at night. v2 He considers himself utterly derided for his faith in the Lord. vv6-9  He is surrounded by overwhelming enemies, ‘Many … strong bulls of Bashan surround me;’v12 and ‘Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the dog!’ v20  His body is broken as if by torture. v v14,15 

It is heartbreaking to consider that this is still a literal experience for many and we see it in the accounts of huge numbers of refugees and victims of abuse.

How does David respond to this?  Despite his feelings he remembers that God is holy and has repeatedly in the past saved his people and on that basis appeals to God. vv3-5  He then remembers God has cared for him since his conception. vv9-11  From that he moves to publicly praise God by faith.  ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.’ v22  In the end he asserts that he is what the Lord has made him.  ‘For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.’ v28

David has learnt that as a disciple we are not what the black dog says or even what we feel at the time.  We are what the Lord has done and said.

You say by Lauran Daigle

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