Being Faithful. Day three...
I have an image in my mind, from a few years ago, that I can't shake—a four‐year old boy, weeping uncontrollably as he sits in the middle of the bed in our guest bedroom. He was spending the weekend with us while his parents were trying to sort things out. Even though he had talked to his dad on the phone he could not be comforted.
I could not help him. He finally cried himself to sleep. I hurt for him then, and I hurt for him now, because he is still too young to understand why his parents were unable to work things out.
This is the pain (even experienced by adult children) of separation from parents acting together as a family unit because of divorce, neglect, poverty, selfishness, or any other issue causing division within the family. But this is also the pain of:
- Separation caused by death.
- Separation caused by broken relationships.
- Separation caused by financial failure.
- Separation caused by sickness or disease.
- Separation caused by any event creating a sense of loss or failure.
And for the Christian, God's faithfulness can easily come into question:
- “Why did You let this happen?”
- “Why don't You answer me?”
- “Why don't You help me?”
- “Why have You abandoned me?”
Maybe those without Christ are able to say:
- “It was bad luck,”
- “It was an accident,”
- “It just happened.”
But God is supposed to take care of His children, isn't He? And so it's easy for us to come unglued when it appears as if things just happened—as if God wasn't paying attention.
There is a way to have hope in the middle of despair.
But it's not the kind of hope based on Grandma telling you, “It's going to be all right,” when Grandma doesn't really know if it's going to be all right. It's the kind of hope based on a truth so strong, that it will overpower the feeling of being abandoned.
Please bring back to your mind the picture from yesterday of Jesus hanging on the Cross and saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me (Matthew 27:46b NLT)?”
This was not a prepared comment Jesus thought up ahead of time just for effect. No, this was the sincere cry of someone who had never known what it was like to experience the sin that we humans are all so familiar with.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
In an effort to help someone who is suffering, have you ever had him or her tell you, “Well, you just don't know how I feel!” He or she is saying, in effect, “My situation is far worse than anything you've ever experienced.” It's a way of telling you, “You can't help me because you don't know what I'm going through.”
But we can't tell Jesus, “Well, You just don't know how I feel,” because He does know how we feel. In our deepest despair, He knows how we feel. He knows exactly how we feel when we feel separated from hope. He knows how we feel and then some.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
Jesus, who experienced all the temptations of all mankind but was without sin, had to become sin on the Cross. We only know our own sin. We do not know the sin of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived and who will ever live. But Jesus did. He took it all on.
And to make it even more significant, He cried out to God with the same cry David made before the Lord, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me (Psalm 22:1a NLT)?” He completely identified with each of us at our very weakest. He completely identified with us when we feel abandoned by Him.
Our feelings can tell us that we are abandoned, but there is something greater than our feelings.
I remember waking up one morning, a few years ago, after a night of wrestling with a string of my past failures. I had come to the conclusion, during all the tossing and turning, that I was a complete failure—abandoned by God. Somehow I knew these feelings were all lies, but they were so real that I believed them anyway. And I was ready to act on them.
When I told Sherrel about my limited future and how I planned on dealing with it, she slapped me out of it, so‐to‐speak, by reminding me of what God had said about my future. It took a couple of hours for the truth to overcome the feelings, but then my sanity returned.
When Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me (Psalm 22:1a NLT)?” He is essentially slapping me out of my own sense of despair. If Jesus would suffer such agony for my benefit, then how could I ever believe that He would or could abandon me? If I am so precious to Him that He would endure the Cross for my sake, then how is it even possible to believe that He would ever leave me?
God says in the Bible a half dozen times that He will never leave us. While this should be enough proof of His faithfulness, it's easy to think, right after we've been hit between the eyes, that maybe we missed something when we read those promises.
But the demonstration of that faithfulness on the Cross, both a historical and a spiritual event, should convince us once and for all of the truth. God will never leave us or forsake us.
When our feelings tell us we have been abandoned by God, we can say to our despair, “That's simply not true. God is faithful.” When everything within our human nature is screaming, “God is gone for good!” we can boldly declare, “There's no way God would ever leave me!” It may take us some time to regain our sanity, but it will return as we think about God's faithfulness.
Have a good day,