“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Ever felt like this? As Christian workers often living miles or oceans away from friends and family, it’s easy to feel isolated.
We may or may not have a supportive team., and we’re not likely to share the dark nights of the soul with our supporters for fear of losing their support or being seen as incompetent.
Before transferring from France to Germany, I attended a retreat where I was confronted head-on with my denial of pain.
The first assignment was to chronicle the changes, worries, criticisms, conflicts and crises we had endured in ministry. Sounds pretty depressing, right?
Sensing our thoughts, they told us we were already talking about our victories. That’s what our circles wanted to hear.
But on the other side of the fairytale was a darker world that needed exploring. If we wouldn’t let God get close enough to touch and heal our wounds, how could we lead anyone else closer to Him?
As I started recounting the not-so-pretty segments of my journey, I was overwhelmed. I would find an isolated piece of lawn, journal and bawl my eyes out.
When I couldn’t write anymore, I would just listen to music and let the tears fall.
By week’s end, I’m pretty sure my tears could have filled at least a travel-sized bottle of saline solution.
Why did sorrow suddenly overtake me? Namely, because I had suppressed it.
It felt too terrifying to share my trauma. I feared the lies I had been told about myself might be true. I was afraid of what God might ask me to do. And more than anything, I was afraid of falling apart.
So instead, I told myself, “It’s not that bad.” And eventually I believed it.
Yet when I look at the example of Jesus, I see a man who expressed his emotions freely.
Jesus didn’t say on the cross, “God, this kind of hurts. Do you have an aspirin?”
Or “It feels kind of lonely on this cross. Could I have a hug?”
You may be laughing or rolling your eyes, but how many times do we feel bad about asking God for too much help (especially for ourselves) instead of being forthright about what we’re feeling?
Or what if Jesus had said something really pious like, “God, my all-loving father, this present suffering is nothing compared to the joy I will feel after I defeat death through my resurrection.”
Or, “God, as I now suffer, may I inspire those who will nobly die for the faith.”
These sound more like statements from the mouth of a saintly Christian superhero – someone who can handle more than the rest of us and always has an eternal perspective.
Now, Jesus was a divine and perfect supernatural hero, who had already experienced eternity. He could have said these things. But he didn’t.
Here are a few threads we should notice about what He did say:
1. Questioning motives. Many times as “professional Christians,” who take Scripture and righteous living seriously, we think that we can’t question God. Out of respect for His authority, we assume we must just accept everything He wills.
Jesus was well-aware that it was God’s will that He die. He had already asked for “the cup” to be taken away in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet, hanging on the cross, He still asked God why. Since Jesus was sinless, we know that his question was admissible.
2. Not mincing words. “Forsake” means to “give up or leave entirely,” “to renounce.”
Jesus knew that God had left him. That in renouncing the sin of the whole world, God also had to renounce Jesus and turn his back away from him. For the first time , the perfect communion that Jesus shared with God was severed. He was more alone than he had ever been. It was more than pain. It was excruciating pain, and Jesus didn’t hold back in letting his father know.
How can we find this same emotional authenticity in our spiritual practices?
For me, this means my journal is a confessional where I hold nothing back.
If I feel completely alone, I say it. If I don’t know why God has allowed me to be stung, He hears about it. If I’m furious, I rant unabashedly.
Acknowledging my emotions isn’t easy. Sometimes, God asks me to love an enemy when I would rather remain bitter. Other times, God asks me to be still when I would rather fight. Still other times, it means acknowledging my weakness and asking for His power to be perfect in it.
In giving God all of me, I am assured that He loves me – faults and all. In questioning God, I say that I believe that He has an answer. In articulating my troubles, I trust God to be able to redeem them.
I am free to be 100 percent authentic, knowing that He will never forsake me.
How easy is it for you to admit (in safe places) how you REALLY are?