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Category Archives: Inspirational
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.
I worry about our culture and the Christian response to it. This issue is an age old one, with many different solutions. Should we withdraw from culture? Should we go along with culture? Do we try to transform culture? Do we exist in parallel with culture? My musings were actually brought about by the comments of a football player, whose jersey I regularly wear. The comments made me wonder if perhaps my allegiance should be elsewhere. How should I respond? What should I do, if I do anything at all?
Now some might feel that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. After all, just because I wear the jersey doesn’t mean that I support everything that they say or do! True, but perhaps there are role models out there that I would be better off supporting, even if they don’t play for my team! I remember when Charles Barkley famously said, “I’m not a role model,” and belittled the idea that professional athletes serve as examples for society. That begs the issue. We are a celebrity culture, and we like anyone that is humorous, beautiful, wealthy, powerful, or athletic. We follow them on Twitter, and Facebook. We buy their products. We go to their movies. We watch their games. We support their campaigns. We wear their jerseys. And we say something about ourselves when we do. We say something about who we like, who we support, and who we are. And we need to remember that we are role models too! 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” We represent Jesus Christ to the world, and it should impact everything that we do.
The answer to my current dilemma is easy: I wear the colors and the logo, but not the jersey. I support the team, but I don’t necessarily take a stand on the individual. No, nobody is perfect. But my responsibility as a Christian is to be and to point people to good examples and godly lifestyles, not end up in a position where I am defending what someone else does simple because I’m a fan. I need to be a bigger fan of Jesus, which brings a responsibility of its own! For you see, Jesus “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
We are in the midst of what I am calling my 2015 family and culture series, and we are preparing to get to the heart of the study. As I think about family relationships, I find that I am surrounded by issues and situations that would make just about anybody cry. It seems that every day I am being reminded that families can be difficult, and that we often need a lot of grace and understanding to get us through. With that in mind, I’ve come up with some unofficial rules over the past 46 years that I think are very important and that I like to share with people in counseling situations…
- You can’t turn the Adams family into a Norman Rockwell painting. I know, a little dated. What would it be now? You can’t turn the Kardashians into……anybody know the name of a mature TV or celebrity family? Anyway, I digress. The point is that you can’t do it! You can’t control what other people do, or make them behave in a different way. And that is further complicated by my next point…
- Some people don’t want to be helped. It actually goes beyond that. Some people are violently opposed to being helped and will lash out at you if they even suspect that you are being critical of them. It’s a dangerous world out there! Proverbs says “Answer a fool according to his folly,” and “Answer not a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:4-5). Which is right? Both are! What we need is discernment to understand when each is appropriate.
- My final point is probably the most controversial, even though I don’t believe it should be. Sometimes, for your own health and well-being, you have to let go, at least for a time. Does a battered wife need to stay at home? Does an abused child need sanctuary? Hopefully you answered those questions “No” and “Yes.” But does that only apply to physical abuse? What about verbal, mental, and emotional abuse? Why should we allow that type of battering to take place? Sometimes there may be extenuating circumstances that need to be taken into account (illness, medication, etc.), but why do we often refuse to allow someone the space and distance they need to heal just because the bruising isn’t physical?
I don’t know what you are going through right now in your own life, but I would remind you of that day when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).