I participated in a tenebre service last night at the church I serve. Seven people were asked to share a reflection on one of the seven last words from the cross. I reflected on Matthew 27:45-46 …
45From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani (sa-bacht-na-knee) ?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
After five and a half hours of agony, Jesus says, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Very different than the “I will always be with you,” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Yet, in so many ways, we can relate to this piece of scripture easier than the others. This passage speaks directly to our broken human hearts. I don’t know about you, but I think there are many more times in life that I have questioned where God was, than the moments where I could feel his arms carrying me.
Let me set the stage … May 21, 2011 one of my triplet sons stopped breathing at home. Owen lived on life support for five days until he gave his ultimate sacrifice on May 26th. I can only explain those five days in the hospital as magical. The presence of God was so strong. He sat next to Owen’s bed WITH me.
Fast forward a few months … my marriage was falling apart. I was crying myself to bed every night. Begging for counseling and getting no where. Day after day I was lonely, hurting and slowly losing myself. I begged God to help me. I pleaded with him to please save my marriage. “God, I have served you through the death of my baby boy – I have spoken of your love in the midst of my unthinkable loss – where are you now to help me? Where are you now to comfort me? Have I not loved you enough for you to love me back? My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?”
I sought out wisdom from my pastor. To my surprise he advised me to leave. For the first time I heard the A word … abuse. What? Me? No … he doesn’t hit me, I’m not being abused. But my pastor insisted, “Mel … this is a death dealing relationship … God loves you so much, he does not expect you to sustain such abuse … it’s time.” I was tired and thirsty, yet God did not offer me rest. When I called his name, He neither comforted nor encouraged me.
Today, Good Friday, Christ died for us. The same silent God I begged to save me, screams his love by allowing his own son to die for me. Sometimes the extent of God’s love is hard for me to grasp … I can be so unlovable, yet this invisible being sent his only child to die for me … he literally died to save me. When trying to understand God’s love for me, I often think of the love I have for my own children. Would I go through unspeakable pain so that they would have a better life? Yes – without a doubt yes. If my ability to love is only a fraction of what God is capable of … then I suppose he would be capable of loving me, even when I am so far separated from him.
I do find comfort in these incredibly sad and painful words … God understands. He gets it. He’s been there, done that.
Did you know that Psalm 22 begins with the same words?
1“My god, my god why have you forsaken me”
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
2Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.
Jesus cries out the same feelings that Kind David did so many years earlier.
When we feel pain, we are separated from God. When we worry, we are separated from God. When our sin weighs us down, we are separated from God. When my children don’t follow my instruction, they are separated from me. When the sun goes down and at the height of his agony, Jesus experiences what it feels like to be separated from God. While you may not be able to see where God is in your life, be sure that he knows your pain.
15My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
19O lord, do not stay far away!
You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!
He has not turned his back on you … he will come again.
ps I even rocked the steps up to the chancel with my crutches!