“My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”

Father David Epps's picture

Nearly all of us have experienced those dark moments when we seem abandoned to cruel and undeserved fates. It is then we cry, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”

The childless woman who has experienced miscarriage after miscarriage only to have the latest baby still-born; the faithful wife, who has given her all, only to be abandoned by an unfaithful husband; the man who has, for the fourth time, been told that the cancer has returned; the person who is lost in the swirling vortex and sucking quicksand of continual depression —all these understand this prayer.

The soldier who is captured and submitted to indescribable horrors at the hands of a brutal enemy; the entrepreneur who has invested his life only to go bankrupt; the pastor who has faithfully served without expectation of glory only to be criticized, humiliated, and perhaps even fired by the very people for whom he poured out his life — these understand the prayer.

The child who have been abused and rejected by his parents; the strong athlete who is crippled in an accident; the family of the father or mother who has committed suicide; the parents who have just been informed that their son or daughter has been killed in an accident, or in war, or due to drugs, or murdered; the young woman who has kept herself pure only to be violated; the parents who have sacrificed for children who now want nothing to do with them — all these, too, understand the prayer. And on and on it goes.

In many church services last Friday, Good Friday in the church calendar, worshippers heard the anguish in the voice of Jesus from the cross as he utters that prayer with which we all immediately identify.

Who of us, at some point or another, using the same or similar words thrust heavenward our own heartfelt cry, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” I am told that the most offered prayer is the Lord’s Prayer, spoken over a billion times around the world each day. Surely, this cry of emotional pain and brokenness is a close second.

On that day so long ago, we can sense the darkness creeping near in an attempt to smother the light. The darkness threatens to stifle, to suffocate, to obliterate hope and even life. It has always been so, even from the beginning.

In the Creation Story, in the midst of plenty and paradise, a darkness was present to undermine, to cause division, to “steal, kill and destroy.” Throughout human history, in every culture, nation, and time, the darkness threatens. In our own time, dark forces of one kind or another attempt to snuff out the light of hope and peace and freedom.

The prayer is universal in that, sooner or later, it is uttered by everyone except the most hardened atheist. It is easily understood. We understand pain. We understand anguish. We understand darkness. We identify with the person on the cross because we know something of how He feels. And, at last, we know that He understands our own torment as well.

Yet, the prayer, a quote from Psalm 22, carries within it a hidden message of hope, faith, and trust. The psalm looks to the One who cannot be destroyed by the present darkness. The psalmist, though anguished, remembers the faithfulness of God in days past and proclaims — even in the midst of immeasurable troubles — that there will be an end to suffering and that he will be able to pass through this darkness and stand in the light of God’s grace and deliverance and proclaim the praises of his Name. “This, too ...” he believes, “shall pass.”

St. Paul in writing to the Church at Thessalonica, said “We do not belong to the night nor to the darkness” (2 Th 5:5 NIV). The darkness, the blackness, the sense of abandonment may come but it is not forever. We may feel swallowed up by the darkness but we shall also see the coming of better days and the brightness of the ever-increasing light. Psalm 22 begins with the specter of anguish and death, but its conclusion is life, and light, and resurrection.

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