About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli,Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:46, NIV).
Breakfast at the Savoy this week consisted of scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, blueberry pancakes, Doubleshot coffee, and a piercing comment by Adam Palmer.
I had said that, as I continue to struggle with the black dog of depression, I feel like God has abandoned me.
“Then you are close to Jesus on the cross,” said AP.
My fork stopped halfway to my mouth.”Repeat what you just said.” He did. I thought that through, then said, ”So feeling abandoned by God is a part of the ‘dying to self’ we are called to?”
Yes, said Adam.
For some reason, that brought a small amount of comfort.
I have always heard that God the Father did not actually abandon Jesus. Jesus only felt abandoned. And, the thinking continues, feelings are not real. So don’t give in to the feelings, but trust the promises. You have, no doubt, heard the same chorus yourself. But is that true? Will God ever abandon us?
When Jesus cried out from the cross, he was quoting one of the most gut-wrenching psalms of all. Jesus does not ask, “Why do I feel like you have abandoned me?” but “Why have you abandoned me?” There is an abandonment in the mysteries of the passion that is very real. It was so very real that darkness overtook the land in the middle of the day. It was so real that an earthquake ripped at the earth that received Jesus’ blood. God had abandoned Jesus.
And yet … and yet God could never abandon Jesus, “for from him and through him and for him are all things.” Jesus holds all things in himself, including death, including the abandonment of his Father. So Jesus was abandoned while holding abandonment itself in his being. Again, this is a great mystery, one that is at once revealed and resolved in the Cross.
Jesus says the only way I can be his follower is for me to pick up my cross and follow him. And that cross includes participating in the sufferings of Christ, and that means I will also know being abandoned by God. Not just a feeling that I am to ignore, but a very real abandonment that is held within Jesus himself. There is no confessing, no speaking promises, no claiming blessings that will eliminate the need to experience abandonment for one who truly desires to press into the heart of the Father.
Yes, there is the reality of God forsaking Jesus on the cross and, as we carry our cross, forsaking us in Jesus. But there is a greater reality: There is the resurrection. And in the resurrection there is no more forsaking, no more abandonment—only an intimate union with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The only way to this union, however, is through the cross. Very, very few will ever choose to go through the cross and suffer abandonment. Most will turn back because it is too much. It brings about death.
Yet only that which has died can be resurrected.
What will you choose to do?
Let us pray.