Today’s Bible passages are: Leviticus 18, Psalm 22, Ecclesiastes 1, and 1 Timothy 3

Psalm 22 artBy Brenda Chance

In my calmest yet most serious mommy voice I’d sufficiently warned them that if they asked me for one more thing I was going to lose my mind. It would unravel like a slinky on a step, twisting and tangling in on itself so as to never slinky straight again.

“Now take the string cheese you badgered out of me and for the love of unicorns and rainbows, sit down quietly and eat it…” A twenty-minute cheese standoff will have you talking like this. Without a single consideration of my mental state or the courtesy to wait for the end of my sentence, he made his vitriolic demand, “I don’t want string cheese; I want square orange cheese.” From the chessboard of my sanity this little three-year-old snatched up the queen.

I’m not exactly sure how I made it down the hall. Spinning and dizziness bumped me side to side down the walls, like a pinball launched into flight yet still trapped in its maze. Sinking into a puddle on the floor, with numb fingers I simultaneously locked the door and unhinged my anguished lament. “God, where are you?”

The crisis really wasn’t about the cheese or the children. They were only the stick poking the hive of desperation.

Our family was newly moved from Seattle—my hometown, where family, friends, and important work surrounded me. From the moment my feet touched down in Los Angeles, I began to lose myself. No family. No friends. Nothing familiar. Only stacks of laundry and endless {and mostly illogical} demands of children. My husband was building a new career and I spent the day as a single adult counting down the long hours until I would go back to bed.

Being a stay-at-home mom was nothing like I thought it was going to be. It felt like bait and switch. Paradise for purgatory. It smacked of irrelevance. Oh, I knew there was nothing more valuable to do with my time than lend it to motherhood, but important doesn’t always feel like we imagine it should. Many meaningful things are cloaked in the ordinary.

Motherhood exposed a broken seal in my life, and it was slowly dispersing the stench of loneliness.

Looking back I can see that I was battling grief and depression. At the time, it felt like forsakenness. The vitality of life and love pulsed back in Seattle. Even God seemed to have stayed back and moved on without me. I was obscure; God was absent.

I let lose with many prayers. Many tear-filled prayers asking God to help me or at least remind me that he was with me. For weeks and months I begged like a three-year-old asking for more mid-morning snacks. Over and over and over again. I badgered God, but he would not capitulate to my demands.

To be forsaken. Abandoned. Ignored. Disowned.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
 Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
 and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1)

When we read the languish-laden words of the Psalmist, do we not wonder how it is that David, the man after God’s own heart, was unable to compose a cry to bend the Father’s heart? And then, how do these once prophetic words fall from the parched lips of the dying Son, the man of God’s own heart? How hard it is to understand.

The doctrine of atonement helps to explain the why of the Father turning his face away from the suffering of the Son. God is holy. Man is sinful. Therefore, God’s holiness prevents sinful man from entering his presence and participating in his life. The Old Testament’s system of sacrifices and scapegoats find their ultimate reality at Golgotha. There, Jesus the Christ, the perfect man and Son of God, does what man can’t; he satisfies sin’s debt with his own blood and reconciles God and man. What gratitude must be our response!

What agony too! That Jesus should be “shut out from the smile of heaven” (Spurgeon). Have we not all had our moment of being at the end of our rope, desperate and despairing for God to come near? But in response, all we hear is the deafening thunder of heaven’s silence. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

The shadow of Golgotha still hangs over many of our lives. Prodigal children do not return home no matter how many sunsets fade upon their parent’s waiting. Cancer spreads. Infertility remains. A spouse leaves. I imagine even today there are loved ones desperately crying out for God to find an airplane lost from the Malaysian skies.  In our unanswered pleas for divine aid, we feel abandoned. Forsaken.

In times like this how can we cling to a God who stands back, absent from our suffering?

In the twelfth century, Peter Abelard, wrestling with the meaning of the cross, reasoned that Calvary served as both a persuasive demonstration of God’s love and an example for our own lives. While it failed to correctly express the efficacious nature of Christ’s salvific work, the Moral Influence Theory of Atonement does rightly encourage us to look to Jesus as a model for how we can respond to God when it seems that heaven has been sealed up.

Look again at Psalm 22. See how Jesus helps us to “appeal to God in the agony of grief, but not in the misery of doubt” (Spurgeon):

  • Jesus let his circumstances receive their meaning from the truth of God’s Word: On the cross, he quotes this well-known Psalm. To connect the prophetic dots? Yes. But certainly no less to comfort his own heart. How instructive for us that when life is hard and God is silent that we too return to what God has already spoken. What Scripture best describes your current circumstance?

 

  • Jesus recounts the character of God: “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (verse 1), or “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabathani,” he cried. El, the name of the Mighty God of Strength. Jesus cries out reminding both God and self that the Omnipotent One’s power is the only source of true refuge. Will you lean in and rest upon God’s strength when you have none of your own?

 

  • Jesus persists in prayer: “I cry by day, but you do not answer 
and by night, but I find no rest” (verse 2). Do we? Or do our disappointments fatigue us when our prayers are not answered with microwave speed?

 

  • Why? The Psalmist tells us three times: “In you our fathers trusted;
 they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (verses 4-5). Jesus preaches to himself that God’s dependability in past deliverances is a future surety. As God has promised, so will he do.

 

  • Jesus allows his suffering to works its appointed purpose: “For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted
and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him” (verse 24). When Jesus quoted the first line of this Psalm did he have the last lines also on the tip of his tongue? May we remember that the temporary feeling of forsakenness is merely the rest to magnify the crescendo in the declaration of God’s eternal embrace.

 

  • Jesus knows: Silence will have its moment, but salvation will own the day. “Posterity shall serve him; 
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
 that he has done it (verses 30-31). Or, as it was spoken from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The promise of Calvary is: the darkness of Jesus’ Golgotha moment cannot overcome the light of its eternal glory. Your darkness will pass for his light has conquered and shines.

 

Does your soul hear this hope, friend? The shadow of Golgotha in your life will be scattered by its glory. Hold on. Follow Christ’s example and cling to your hope in God. He was temporarily shut out of the smile of heaven so that you and I will forever be in its gaze. Never truly alone. Never really forsaken. Always loved. Yes, even in the silence you are loved.

photo by permission – Kelli Campbell

Today’s Question: Does your soul hear this hope?

BrendaC_200Brenda is passionate for Christ-followers to display God’s words and works as captivatingly beautiful. She has served in various ministerial and nonprofit roles, and is currently working on her M.Div. (at Fuller Theological Seminary) where she is delighting in new discoveries of her Savior and Scripture. She is a regular teacher of Bible studies and a hope coach for the wounded, weary and wandering. Sometimes she does laundry, but only when it’s absolutely imperative. She loves days spent in the garden, sharing a good meal with friends, and the exuberant devotion of her two Basset Hounds. She may or may not have an unhealthy relationship with coffee, chocolate, and book buying. She lives outside of Los Angeles with her husband of twenty-two years and is a mom to two college-age boys who grew up way too fast. She writes about truth, beauty, and God’s goodness at OnceUponATruth.wordpress.com.

Related posts:

Pain Must Have Its Place - Psalm 119
Perfectly Strong in My Place - Psalm 145
Pain is For Seeing - John 9
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  2. So much beauty in this piece, Brenda! I love your vivid images at the beginning – “the chessboard of my sanity” and the pinball description – oh how I have been there! And this line: “May we remember that the temporary feeling of forsakenness is merely the rest to magnify the crescendo in the declaration of God’s eternal embrace.” Thanks for this thoughtful, encouraging study.

  3. Pingback: God, Where Are You? {For When You Feel Forsaken} | Once Upon a Truth

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