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For Those Who Feel Forsaken // Dust No. 25

Eric L. Johnson

Lent reminds us that Christ also endured our hardships.

Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Professor of Pastoral Care, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
April 18, 2014

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”

“In you our fathers trusted; to you they cried and were rescued.” (Ps 22:1,4a, 5a)

There is a gap down here between the Christian’s knowledge of God and his promises, and the Christian’s experience of his presence and his rescue. And sometimes that gap seems to last a very long time.

David felt forsaken by God. He was being attacked by his enemies and oppressors, and he was in the gap; waiting, while trusting, yet wondering where God was in the midst of it. Even so, he knew his God was coming to satisfy the afflicted (Ps 22:26).

Job was sifted by Satan and experienced catastrophic loss, which could have been traumatic. But he endured for a while—“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

But everyone has their breaking point, and even the upright Job had his, after which he appeared to be traumatized, and then he too had his “why’s” (Job 3:11; 10:18, 13:24; 21:7; 24:1).

But what about children who experience chronic loss, for a very long time, whose enemies and oppressors were the members of their own household? What about a gap that lasts for more than a traumatic season, but lasts for traumatic years?

Children lack the capacities to make sense of their situation. They love those who care for them—even though they don’t always care for them. And some children do not know any years of plenty, before the years of famine, which might have made it easier for them to believe later that plenty is coming again. And they cannot sort out yet, that what people meant for evil, God meant for good (Gen. 50:20).

What does this waiting do to the brains, and minds, and relational expectations of such children? How does this compromise their adult capacities and impact their abilities to love both God and neighbor? God only knows.

And yet there are no excuses. We are adults now, and we know now that we are sinners. We know we have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). We have not cared for our neighbor or for our God as we ought to have done. And so a part of us says, and the word of God says, the deep, often unconscious sense of forsakenness common to our race tells us something fundamental about our predicament. So now I no longer think as a child, but rather, as a wretched man, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:23)

And then one Friday afternoon, we hear both God and man say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” “In you our fathers trusted; to you they cried and were rescued.”

We look up to him, and see the one who has loved us so, and we hear him say,

“I know your sin and I know your plight. Because of my death, you are forgiven; and because of my resurrection, I am with you always. I know about this gap—between death and resurrection—better than you, and you see it is breaking my heart. It is true, I will not destroy this gap—for adults or for children—until I come again, but I leave you this remembrance that I have entered into the gap with you, and joined myself to your sin and suffering, so that when I tell you that you are forgiven in confession, and that I wept when you suffered, and that I am coming to rescue you, you will more and more learn to trust me, and more and more wait for me to come, and more and more be raised, strong, from the dead.”