That Forsaken Feeling
- Written by Jody Vickery Jody Vickery
- Published: 25 August 2017 25 August 2017
For centuries, Christians have pondered the words of Jesus, and none more so than the seven sayings he spoke from the cross. John includes three of the seven.
To his mother: “Dear woman, here is your son.” And to John, “Here is your mother.”
The second saying is one everyone can identify with: “I am thirsty.
The third: “It is finished.”
Luke reports three more sayings.
“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
To the thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Finally, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Mark and Matthew recite the seventh saying, but this one is not a statement. It’s a question.
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:33 – 34)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
As the shadow of death creeps up the cross, Jesus appears to entertain a shadow of doubt about God’s faithfulness. All by itself, it’s a haunting question. But the weight of it feels so much heavier when we remember that his first recorded words were, themselves, questions: To Mary and Joseph, his human parents, he asked, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my father’s house?”
That day, his earthly parents were out of their minds frantic looking for him. This day, on the cross, it seems, his heavenly Father is looking away. When she found him, Mary asked Jesus, “Son why have you treated us like this?” Here on this skull shaped mountain, Jesus seems to be asking God the same question. In the temple at twelve years old, he felt at home in his Father’s house. On the cross, he is suspended between heaven and earth and neither, it appears, wants anything to do with him.
These observations are problematic for people of faith. Uncomfortable and awkward. How could God’s son be abandoned by God? If God would not deliver his own flesh and blood, how can he be trusted to deliver those grafted into His family? How could Jesus, who has been denied, rejected, betrayed and beaten by humans also be shunned by God? There are answers to these questions, but we should not rush to resolve them. There is a blessing to be wrestled from this cosmic tension.
Though he felt it more intensely than anyone ever has, Jesus is not the only one to feel God-forsaken. We may never have spoken those words or asked that question, but some of us know that feeling.
If you’ve ever sat alone in the ashes of your own failure . . .
If you’ve ever been betrayed by the duplicity of a friend . . .
If a doctor has ever given you your test results then said, “I’m sorry,” . . .
If a parent has ever spat out, “Don’t come back,” or a child screamed they wouldn’t . . .
You know how bitter Jesus’ question tastes.
Your heartache may be of a different kind, but if you’ve ever felt abandoned, forgotten or forsaken; left out, cut off or passed over; dropped, dumped or deserted — Jesus knows. And just knowing that Jesus knows, sometimes, is all it takes to keep faith alive. When we feel the nothingness of being abandoned, knowing that Jesus knows means that he and we share something. We have never hung on his cross, but he has shared our struggle. We are not crazy for feeling forgotten. And we are not alone.
That’s good news. But it gets better. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard. (Hebrews 5:7)
He. Was. Heard. Maybe you are thinking, “So, he was heard. He died anyway.”
True. But he didn’t stay dead. That tomb is empty. In his own time, in a spectacular way, God delivered.
Given what some of us are going through these days, it’s understandable that we would, just as Jesus did, feel forsaken. He wasn’t. You aren’t. God sees. God hears. God delivers.