Psalm 22:12-18 find us in dire straits. The enemies are too strong, too numerous, too fierce. Death seems imminent, inevitable. If ever it was time to give up, now is that time. But the psalmist rallies one last time, musters the strength for one last cry.
PS 22:19 But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
PS 22:20 Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
PS 22:21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
He remembers that God is his strength and his savior, and he asks the Lord to fight off the dogs, the lions, and the bulls, to deliver his life. And in the midst of this last gasp of hope, his prayer is answered. The NIV translates verse 21 as "rescue me from the mouth of lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen." But in the Hebrew, the word "saved" or "rescued" can also be translated "answered", and some commentators and translators believe that this is a more faithful rendering. So the ESV translates it, "You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!" Somehow in the midst of suffering, God answers, deliverance comes.
As I headed back to college in 1996, I was the chapter president of my InterVarsity group. I was thinking about going on staff with IV, and I was set to lead our outreach to new students. But my soul was stuck in grief and fear, and so I asked for a meeting with one of our IV campus ministers. I poured out my heart and struggles to him, and then I waited to see what he would think, wondering if he would think it would time for me to step down from leadership. He looked at me and smiled and said, "Marshall, I want you to know that I don't see you any differently right now than I did ten minutes ago, and neither does the Lord. His grace and mercy are totally able to handle your struggles." And just like that the clouds parted and the light of grace and forgiveness and the love of Christ flooded in. And that launched me on a journey of learning the freedom of living in the grace of God.