My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Some of you may recognize that cry. It’s first found in the Bible in Psalm 22, but it’s most well know from when Jesus quoted it on the cross as He was dying.
Even if you don’t recognize it, it may still resonate with you. You may believe in God. You may not. But chances are something has happened in your life that made you ask the question: Why? Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to us? To my friend? To my child? To my spouse? To my parent.
You may be surprised that the Bible has a lot to say about suffering. About pain. And about our reaction to it. In fact, there is even a whole book about it that we looked at in church a few months ago. The book of Job. In that book Job loses just about everything he has, and everything he loves. He’s sick. He’s suffering. And he asks God why. And there are four significant truths that this book teaches us.
1) Number one is that we can cry out to God with our pain. Job is a mess. He weeps. He moans. He complains. He accuses. God hears it all. God takes it all. For months Job is like this, until God finally responds to him. Is it any wonder that we find Jesus crying out to God with His pain since we have the example of Job that has been given to us? God already knows when we are in pain, when we are struggling, when we are suffering from a lack of faith, and we should not be afraid to express ourselves to Him.
2) The second truth is that we don’t always cause our pain. Some of Job’s friends assumed that what was happening was a result of his bad choices. That it was all a consequence of his actions. “God must be punishing him for something” is what they thought and what they expressed to Job. The book of Job goes out of its way to say that Job didn’t do anything wrong. — Tess came to talk to me a couple of months ago about this same issue. She was concerned because of what some people insinuate regarding illness and faith, and we had a long talk about it. We also talked about the third lesson that Job teaches us.
3) We won’t always know why. Sometimes we figure it out — why the pain, why the suffering, why the hardship. But not always. We’re let in on the secret from the book of Job; we know why Job is suffering, but Job never finds out. Not in this life anyway! And Job ended up being okay with that. Because the final lesson, and perhaps the most important one, the one Tess knew and lived is that…
4) We can trust God. At the end of the book of Job, we find Job finally encountering the God that he was crying out to. And he learns something important. That God is greater than he is. That God knows all and sees all, and that God understands the reasons behind what happens. That God works all things together for good to those that love him, as Romans 8:28 says. It gave Job comfort and he learned that he could trust God.
We find this cycle lot in Scripture. There is something cleansing and purifying about expressing our feelings to God. When we keep the anger in it festers, it poisons, and it makes us sicker than we already are. When we express our pain it allows us to trust again. This is a pattern we see in Psalm 22 as well. It starts out with:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
That’s the pain. Here’s the trust:
3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
The author expresses his pain again in verse 6:
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
But it is quickly followed by trust again starting in verse 9:
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. 10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
And finally, we see the cycle again in verses 14-15:
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
With the response of trust starting in verse 19:
19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me!
And we see something similar with Jesus when he’s dying on the cross. He starts by crying out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He ends with “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.” So we have the cycle again. Pain. Suffering. Crying out. Trusting. And acceptance. We must be willing to go through the cycle ourselves if we want to be whole.
But there is another connection between Psalm 22 and Jesus’ death on the cross. The Psalm starts with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” The Psalm ends with a cry of victory: “God has done it!” God has answered the cry of the suffering psalmist and saved him. Jesus first cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” But one of the last things that Jesus utters from the cross is: “It is finished,” or, better, “It has been accomplished.” It is done. Jesus has finished His work. God has heard Him. God has saved Him. We can say that it may be finished, but it isn’t over – because God raised Him from the dead and He lives!
And that’s what we should remember here today. It is finished. Tess’ struggle is done. There is no more pain. No more sickness. It is finished, but it isn’t over. There is more. There is eternity. There is life. All because of Jesus Christ. He suffered. He cried out. He died. And he did it for us. He did it so that we could be forgiven of the wrong that we have done. He did it so that we could enter into a right relationship with God. He did is so that we could know love. He did it so that we could know peace. He did it so that we could have everlasting life.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Tess believed. Tess is with God today. And you can have that same assurance. If you trust. If you believe. If you have faith.