Day 38 of Lent, Psalm 44:
There are times that feel dry, lonely and empty. There may be nothing really ”wrong.” We may have family, school to finish, work and friends, even. Though life is full, it also feels desolate, like a desert. God feels distant, unreachable, as if He is hiding. Have you experienced a time such as this? Maybe you are right now. I remember one time like this in particular, after a year of growth, and new friends. Then something changed, and I am not sure why. I would pray, but it felt like God was not listening. I would read the bible and it did not feel living. I felt like crying and giving up. Day after day, I would come to God, yet seem to find nothing. Where was He?
Will God forsake us? It sure can feel like it. One thing that is clear, I don’t want to stay in this empty and barren time. It makes me long for the presence of God. For, when He is with me, anything seems possible. In a wasteland, nothing seems possible.
The last hours
We are in the last days of Lent, a few days before Easter. I want to continue to adjust the focus to His last hours. What happened in Jesus’ last hours? The last few days we have looked at the pain of rejection, the incredible humility of Christ and now I want to look at some of His last words. I think the last words are very telling of a person— whether it is the last words before saying good-bye, the last words in a book, or of course, the last words of the Messiah. What did He say?
Jesus is on the cross, crucified. He has been beaten, wrongly accused and “tried.” He has been scourged and humiliated, not even able to carry His own cross. Now, after nails are driven through his hands and feet, His worn body hangs bruised and broken on the cross. It must have been an excruciating sight. This is the moment for which He has trusted His Father. This is the moment in which He kept entrusting Himself to His Father. His trust was complete. He had no reason to doubt His Father, because of His great love. Matthew records His last words like this:
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
Jesus is forsaken. Pause for a moment and think about this. There is a mystery in all of this. How can Jesus, the Son of God, be forsaken by God His Father? This is the moment that God’s promises would be be fulfilled and kept. All of the sin of the world, including mine, is heaped on Jesus, the perfect sacrifice. All of the shame, guilt, selfishness, and wrongs are carried by Jesus. “He made Him, who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) God is not forsaking His plan or promises. He is fulfilling them. But for a time, His very own son was forsaken– so that we will not be forsaken.
Where can I run from God?
I think we know the answer to this, but we must remember what is true. Jesus could endure the cross because of His Father’s love and because of His promises. He remembered so He could endure.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness is not dark to You, and night is as bright as day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”
As His child, He will never forsake us. He will always call us His own and be with us. But when we don’t “feel” it, we must do what Jesus would have done. We must choose to remember what God has done, and the promises He will keep.
Normal and Dry
Today in Psalm 44, the psalmist feels forsaken by God. He says,
Arouse Yourself, why do You sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever. Why do you hide Your face and forget our afflictions and our oppression?
I am reminded, it is normal to have times that are dry, lonely, and feel like a desert. It is normal to have questions and doubts. Often, we may feel the pressure from others to make the Christian life about being happy, which is not true. The purpose of the Christian life is to make us more like Christ, so we will highlight and reflect God. He is then magnified and others see Him more clearly and brightly. This time of a “desert” can be just what we need for stripping us of the things we rely on to be “happy.” Fortunately, we have His Spirit to produce lasting things like love, joy, peace, etc. There is lasting joy, which is different from fleeting happiness.
Remember. Remember. Remember.
In addition, I am reminded from this psalm, that “remembering” is important during “forsakenness.” Even though he feels forsaken, the psalmist remembers:
O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us the work that You did in their days.
You planted them…
And their own arm did not save them, but Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, for You favored them.
You are my King, O God…
For I will not trust in my bow, nor will my sword save me. But You have saved us from our adversaries, You have put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted all day long and we will give thanks for Your name forever.
Favored not Forsaken
As His child, we are favored, not forsaken. What do I need to do when I feel dry or doubtful?
- Of course, remember. Remember God’s faithfulness, His works each day. Remember. Remember.
- Walk by faith not by our feelings. I will have to remember this my whole life! I must resist the feeling’s trap– that my feelings are a better guide than truth and faith. There is an enemy who will do anything to resist us from walking in truth.
- Continue to be in God’s word. Do not forsake this. Take the Psalms, Mark or 1John and just read. But before you do, simply ask God to make it alive.
God keeps His promises. We will not stay in this dry place forever, for God does not forsake us. The cross was about God keeping His promises. Jesus was forsaken so we would not be forsaken. God favored us. This is great news.
God will not forsake us. He has favored us.