Back in the first century in Rome, there lived a man called Quintilian who was very skilled at writing and public speaking. In fact Quintilian was so skilled that he wrote the textbook called Institutio Oratoria (or Institutes of Oratory) that became a standard for others to follow. In this textbook, Quintilian encourages his students to follow the ‘practice of the greatest orators of drawing upon the early poets to support their arguments or adorn their eloquence’ (Inst. 1.8.10). This advice is similar to a modern-day parent advising their child to add a quote from Shakespeare in their debate speech in order to add a touch of sophistication and to impress the judges.
But poetry and other literature are more than just a source of quotations, they are also works to be enjoyed and appreciated for what they are. This is especially true when we turn to the Scriptures and read the book of Psalms. What I most appreciate about the Psalms is that they describe life the way it really is: a mixture of good and bad. Sometimes the world seems great and we feel like praising God, but at other times we feel that the world is conspiring against us and it seems that even God has forgotten us. Life can be like that sometimes.
The good news is that back in the first century around the same time as Quintilian there lived another man, a very different man, Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus also read the Psalms and knew that life was filled with both good and bad. And so on the cross he cried out to the Father using the words of Psalm 22:1 – ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ At that point he shared in our fallen world and conquered the cause of our pain and grief – the world’s rebellion against God.
And so while this life will still be a mixture of good and bad until Christ returns or he takes us home, we have confidence that when that day comes all our tears will be wiped away. Until then, may God strengthen you through every trial and give youo hope and Joy.