PSALM 22:1-5 (NASB) | “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest. Yet You are holy…In You our fathers trusted…To You they cried out and were delivered; in You they trusted and were not disappointed.”
Sooner or later every Christian will experience something of this sense of desolation. It’s the desperate cry of a soul that has sacrificially responded in obedience to God’s call, but then found him to be mysteriously absent. The depth of anguish comes more from this sense of abandonment than from the level of sacrifice required. The absence of the presence that we had so far understood to be his is too much to bear.
Perhaps you have given up a lot to the Lord’s service and tragedy has struck. Maybe God’s deliverance hasn’t come as you prayed for, and the hardest thing is that God isn’t answering. Perhaps you are in one of those crises right now.
A number of years ago, I felt the Lord leading me to donate part of my liver to my father who was battling cancer. For the “reward” to my obedience, I experienced the worst tension of my marriage and additional surgery with numerous complications. I was told the surgery would keep me off the mission field. Then six months later, my father died; the transplant was just too late.
In light of the apparent failure of my sacrifice, it seemed that God had left me on my own to decide if this had been the right thing to do. At one point, it seemed that I was being lowered into a well by a fraying rope. All I could do was listen to worship music and weep. I felt I deserved an answer and that God should have told me what to do.
As the psalm records, when King David reached this point in his life, he made the irrational leap to declare his faith in God’s character and performance record. In the face of feeling completely abandoned by God, David surrendered himself to God in complete abandon.
When I felt that fraying rope snap, in that instant in the darkness, I found I was already standing on a solid dry Rock. In quoting this psalm from the cross (see Mt. 27:46), Jesus followed the example of David’s counterintuitive faith. So shout it—through the pain, despite the fear and doubt. God is God. He is holy (Ps. 22:3). He does hear (Ps. 22:24). And a verse that helped me through my complications: He is righteous; there is no wickedness in him (Ps. 92:15).
The panic and fear of forsakenness is something you can never really be prepared for, and just as unexpected is a new sense of God’s presence and love in the midst of the darkness. He is there. He does hear. More than you know. More than you feel.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Reread the scripture text slowly several times, picturing the cross.
Recall one of your moments of dereliction.
Open your heart to God again in that moment of darkness, and make the bold assertion of your faith in God, even though everything is screaming that he is not faithful.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill O’Byrne is the co-founder and ministry director of the CRM/ChurchNEXT community of spiritual formation ministry called Imago Christi. Bill has written A Lenten Journey: A Contemplative Devotional on the Passion and Resurrection of Christ (Paperback, Kindle and ePUB), which guides readers through the process of embracing God's love in and beyond suffering.
This piece was originally published in CRM’s 2013 Lent Devotional.