"My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" (Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?)
Jesus' heartbreaking and haunting words on the cross. Words of abandonment. Of sorrow.
They come from the opening of Psalm 22 and were written by David. In both cases the repetition of "My God, my God" reveal the depths of the agony he's in and it is an honestly bold questioning of God. It's a gut-wrenching wondering of, "Where are you? Why have you abandoned me?" This was a moment where David felt alone, where his enemies were seeking to take his life, and it's a desperate cry as he then asks, "Why are you so far from saving me?"
How many of us are this honest when we pray?
In the midst of severe trials (when a marriage is crumbling, when the cancer's returned, when a child has been tragically killed, when battling the depths of depression), we wonder may inwardly wonder but never outwardly cry out these very words.
To be forsaken means to be abandoned or deserted. It means to renounce or turn away from.
Both definitions are harsh, especially at the idea that it is our loving Father who is doing this. How can a loving God not be with us in the midst of our suffering?
Fleeing from his enemies, David cried out in despair.
A darkness covered the land as Jesus cried out those words. This was an anguish of more than mere bodily suffering but a suffering of the soul.
Both were the focus of derision, jeering, cruel taunts. Both heard others insulting them and mockingly asking, "He (David) trusts in the Lord, let him deliver him" or "He (Jesus) trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants, for he said, 'I am the Son of God'."
There may be those in our lives, who, during our suffering, ask, "Where is your God?"
"Why doesn't He heal you?"
"Why did He let your marriage fail?"
"Why did He let your child die?"
The goodness of God is always questioned whenever there is suffering. What they fail to understand is that He is there in the midst of our suffering because He understands it better and more deeply than all of us: as He watched His own Son die an agonizing, excruciating death at the hands of His own creation. A creation that mocked, spit on and ridiculed Him.
Christ understands our suffering, our darkness, and the depths of our pain. When we are at our most vulnerable, when we feel the most abandoned and alone, Jesus is there in our midst. "I understand," he whispers. I am with you always."
On that cross he took on all of our sins, sufferings and our sorrows.
When our spouse walks out the door for good, He is there.
When our child is arrested and we feel like we've failed as parents, He is there.
When the doctor tells us, "I'm afraid the news isn't good . . .," He is there.
When we are in that "night season," as David called it, He is there.
When that friend we thought was so close abandons us, He is there.
When the suffering is so strong that we can feel it in our bones, in the innermost parts of ourselves, He is there.
When we cannot find the words to pray, cannot find solace in church, cannot hear the hymns , He is there.
When our unbelief is greater than our belief, He is there.
No matter what the affliction and pain, no matter how scared we are, no matter how silent we think Him, He is there.
As one who has watched his mother die of cancer, who has struggled in the absolute lowest pits of depression, I know that this promise is true.
Our wounds are His wounds. All of them. Along with all of our sins, Jesus took on all of our sorrows.
Because God so loved us. . .
His love is one that shed blood. His love is one that is born in the fire of suffering. Nothing we go through is alien to Him.
Jesus' suffering gives voice to our own.
When we are surrounded, when we feel like the last ounce of us has been poured out, when we feel we have nothing left, when our throats are unable to form words, when our strength is failing . . .
As David wrote in the last part of verse 21, "You have answered me."
And what is his answer?
"My child, I am with you."
No matter what the outcome to the circumstance, he will say, "I am with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you."
You are not alone.