Those words can be shouted by an angry spouse who has discovered infidelity. Or by the daughter who has run away, pointing a blaming finger at her parents, because they did not rescue her, one more time. Circumstances in our lives can bring us to the brink of screaming at someone: “Why have you forsaken me?”
Even more troubling is when we experience this separation from God. Can there be anything worse than being forsaken by God? As much as I have endured some horrible experiences, they still don’t compare with God’s abandonment. I can’t think of anything worse.
I’m not the first to wonder about —to fear the abandonment of God. Read how the Psalmist expressed this in Psalm 88:
[The plea:] O Lord God, my savior, I cry out to you during the day and at night. Let my prayer come into your presence. Turn your ear to hear my cries. (vv. 1-2)
[The abandonment in my heart:] My soul is filled with troubles, and my life comes closer to the grave. I am numbered with those who go into the pit. I am like a man without any strength—abandoned with the dead, like those who have been killed and lie in graves, like those whom you no longer remember, who are cut off from your power. (vv. 3-5)
[Abandonment by God:]
You have put me in the bottom of the pit— in deep, dark places.
Your rage lies heavily on me.
You make all your waves pound on me.
You have taken my friends far away from me.
You made me disgusting to them. I’m shut in, and I can’t get out. (vv. 6–8)
Notice the progression: Talking to God is to be a place of refuge, God invites me to speak to Him, and I pour out my heart to Him. But then I look around at my circumstances, and I see little of the “blessed” life. Rather it leads me further to the pit, “abandoned with the dead.” That is getting low, very low!
But the progression is further downward, because now my complaint is that God is responsible for my predicament. God has become my enemy! “You have put me in the bottom of the pit—in deep, dark places.” How far has it gone? I am so far down that I don’t think God’s mercy can reach this far.
[Far from God’s help]
Will you perform miracles for those who are dead?
Will the spirits of the dead rise and give thanks to you?
Will anyone tell about your mercy in Sheol or about your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Will anyone know about your miracles in that dark place or about your righteousness in the place where forgotten people live? [vv. 10–12)
And now the Psalmist comes to the heart of the matter, the plea that seems to reach deaf ears.
[The plea becomes urgent:] I cry out to you for help, O Lord, and in the morning my prayer will come into your presence. Why do you reject my soul, O Lord? Why do you hide your face from me? (vv. 13–14)
[Conclusion] Darkness is my only friend! (v. 18)
Have you been there? You are not the first, nor the last.
But there is One who has been there. He experienced the ultimate abandonment. He shouts out to His heavenly Father: “Why have you forsaken me?”He experiences that, shouts that, dies that death of abandonment for you and me, and every person.
Make plans to worship tomorrow evening (7 PM) at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church (Frazier Park, CA). You will hear more about the desolation that becomes our ultimate comfort.
(Scripture quotations in this post from God’s Word translation.)