“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

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Copyright 5/23/13 by Sarah G. Pemberton

Who has never felt abandoned in this life?  Virtually everyone can relate to this overwhelming emotion to some degree, at some point in time.  For some, it may be little more, for example, than the momentarily traumatic memory of being lost in a public place as a child.  But then, the security guard found you, took you to the Lost and Found, and your mother found you safely there, licking a sucker.  She hugged your neck, perhaps scolded you a bit for not staying with her, and took you happily home.

But for others, the pain of abandonment trauma goes much deeper, with far more lasting effects.  Think of the recent stories of the three women held captive:  Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, plus Amanda’s daughter born in captivity.  Their joy of newfound freedom, according to some reports, is still plagued by nightmares of their captor coming back to get them.  Healing will take time, therapy, much prayer, and the grace of God.

Others may struggle with abandonment trauma related to the early loss of a parent.  Even when an adult logically understands that death is not something over which we have much control, and that Mommy or Daddy did not intentionally leave the child, yet the memory of that now-adult child may still be plagued with irrational fears of abandonment, resulting in all kinds of irrational coping behaviors as an adult.  In my own life, my mother being hospitalized for nine months when I was a preschooler had a profound impact on my life.  I had to be hospitalized for pneumonia for about 4 or 5 days during this time, and the difference it made for me — compared with my husband being hospitalized at the same age for the same condition, but with his mother there the whole time — was huge.  Other things which went wrong with that experience made it a terrible memory, indeed.

So how do we get healed of the irrational fears of the past?  How do we get past the fear that beloved people currently in our lives will “surely leave me, or die, or simply reject me, just like X did”?  First, regardless of whether or not our fears are unfounded, or even based on accurate discernment, Jesus remains the One Who most profoundly understands this trauma, and Whose victory over suffering is our timeless key to escape from the prison of paralyzing fear.

Merely memorizing the dozens of Scriptures which reassure that God will not forsake us will not alone heal a deeply traumatized soul.  Yet meditation upon these Scriptures, worshipping the Lord and proclaiming daily to one’s own spirit the faithfulness of His Word, is the seed-planting act of hope which precedes a harvest of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  (Rom. 14:17; 8:6) For most of us, seeking concentrated and perhaps long-term prayer ministry with someone who understands inner healing will help to slowly dismantle the strongholds of fear which have built up in our minds over a lifetime.  Renewing one’s mind (Rom. 12:1-2) according to God’s Word, involves diligence and not giving up.  These deep fears didn’t get there overnight, and they won’t be dismantled overnight.  Healing is usually experienced in layers.

Understanding Jesus’ road to victory will, however, help us to also find that same path of faith, hope, love, and trust in the faithfulness and goodness of our heavenly Father.  Upon the Cross, we know that Jesus took the load of all the sin, and of all the hopelessness, guilt, shame, loneliness, and despair it produces in our lives. (Ps. 22:1) He carried all the abandonment of our separation from God, so that we might be restored to right intimacy with God.

How did He bear this incomprehensibly massive load?  By having girded His mind, will, emotions, and spirit with the Truth of His Father’s love, His Father’s promises of resurrection and victory, over a period of thirty-three years of unbroken intimacy with His Father – that’s how.  He drew from the well of His Father’s declaration, “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”  (Mk. 1:11)  Our hope in the midst of despair is to draw from the well of Jesus’ Own Faith.  Gal. 2:20 is usually quoted as, “…I live by faith in the Son of God;” but the more accurate translation is, “I live by the faith OF the Son of God.”  It is by drawing upon His gift of faith, not something which we must “produce” by self-effort, that we are empowered to stay in a place of spiritual shelter from life’s storms.

So here is what I saw today in my prayer time, which I had never connected before:  The same Jesus who said, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” – while hanging on the Cross, also said just hours later, “It is finished!  Father, into Your Hands, I commit my spirit.”  How does one commit one’s spirit into the care of Someone who feels far away, even completely withdrawn?  Was Jesus “feeling better” by then?  Not likely!  Had the Presence of His Father returned to comfort Him?  I doubt it very seriously, as He carried the full weight of the condemnation we deserved for our sin all the way to the grave and Sheol, to the place where the dead who had died in the hope of God’s covenant promises yet awaited their salvation.  But rather, even while covered in the ugliness of our sin, even feeling a million miles away from His Abba, He made a statement of faith, of trust that this abandonment which he felt would not be permanent, because His Father had promised to raise Him on the Third Day.

Read the entirety of Psalm 22.  It crosses back and forth from the emotions of utter despair to faith in a hope unseen, built on the faithfulness of God’s promises.  Likewise, Ps. 27:10 says, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, / But the Lord will take me up.”   Heb. 13:5-6, addressing fears of the lack of provision (perhaps in a depressed economy like ours) says, “Let your way of life be free from [not in slavery to] the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we may confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What shall man do to me?’”

Heavenly Father, I pray for each person reading this now, that You will draw each heart to a supernatural revelation of the power of Jesus’ suffering as the solution to all of ours.  As we meditate on the loneliness of Jesus, may our own loneliness fade as nothing by comparison.  As we meditate on the abandonment of Jesus by His Abba, so that He could bear the sin that causes us to abandon one another, may we feel the saturating Presence of the Holy Comforter; for Jesus promised he would not leave us as orphans.  We know God cannot lie; so we choose to trust You to fill every void in our hearts, every place of desperation in our souls, with Your grace and peace that gives hope in the midst of hopelessness; in Jesus’ Mighty and Merciful Name.  AMEN.

Joseph Williams' friend Paige

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