by John Funk


46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  (Matt 27:45-46).

Have you ever felt like God has forsaken you?  Have you ever reached a point in your life where you thought you simply could not go on?  Have you ever wished for death because of the trials, tribulations, pain and struggle you face every single day of your life?  Have you ever thought that any existence, other than the one you have, could be better than the life that you lead?  Have you ever questioned God’s love?  If you have, please know that you are not alone.  In fact, you are very much surrounded by others who have experienced the same thing.  Some of them experience this feeling each and every day of their lives. 

I thought God was a loving God, that He was a merciful God, that He cared for and loved His children.  If that is the case, then why do we live lives that are filled with pain?  Why does an all-powerful God allow bad things to happen to His children?  Why do the righteous suffer while the immoral prosper?

Just before the moment of His death, Jesus experienced a deep feeling of desperation, a perception that God the Father had literally turned His back upon His only begotten Son.  Hanging on the cross, bleeding from a beating that had left Him disfigured to the point that He was unrecognizable, no longer able to support His own weight, bearing the ridicule and disdain of the crowds who only days before chanted His name proclaiming Him to be King, He turned to His Father, the One Who was omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent to find what?  He discovered that the One Who had walked with Him each and every day of His life, the One Who had never left Him, the One Who loved Him more than anyone could imagine, had turned His back upon Him.  At this moment, Jesus cried out in desperation in His humanity feeling utterly and completely abandoned.  For the first time ever, He was alone – wholly, totally, alone.  The King of the universe, the Son of God, the Word Who was with God and was God (John 1:1) was no longer on His throne – He was dying alone bearing the weight of the world’s sins upon His shoulders.  (See http://www.javaforjesus.com/walk.html.)

I have always been taught that God turned His back upon Jesus during the crucifixion because God could not bear to see the sin that Jesus was taking upon Himself.  Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for sin for the sake of all mankind.  I have even read that Jesus actually became sin for the sake of the ones who would be His elect.  And yet, while this may be true, why did God turn His back?  Wasn’t He strong in His omnipotence to bear the sight of this sacrifice?  Or, was there another reason for Jesus to feel that God had turned His back?  Was there another purpose behind Jesus’ cry on the cross?

[Sidenote:  That volitional sacrifice took place because the Jewish sacrificial system was a system designed to remind the people of the need for shed blood for redemption of sin and yet, it could never fulfill the ultimate purpose of cleansing people of their sin and establishing a relationship with God.  The sacrifice of an animal would never suffice; it took the sacrifice of the only One Who would willingly give up a perfectly-lived life for the sake of those who would be willing to accept the gift of salvation through the grace of God.   That gift is still available for those willing to accept it.]

I believe that Jesus never did anything without a purpose.  Everything Jesus said or did during His life on this earth had meaning and purpose behind it.  If that is the case, then what was the purpose behind that desperate cry on the cross at Calvary?  Was it simply the cry of a man who had lost everything and was staring at the end of his existence or was it the cry of the Son of Man Who was crushing the head of Satan?  If Jesus was the same, yesterday, today and forever (See Hebrews 13:8), then He, in His pain and desperation, was once again acting for the benefit of those who would seek Him out and follow Him.  He cried out with His voice echoing through the ages for our benefit.  He felt what we feel.  Perhaps His feeling of abandonment was worse than anything anyone has ever experienced.  God, His constant companion throughout eternity, was no longer there.  Jesus was no longer in direct communication with God.  Just like Jesus, there are times when we too feel like God has abandoned us.  Therefore, what can we learn from Jesus’ cry?  What does that cry mean to us?

The word “forsaken” in the original text is egkataleipo meaning to leave behind in some place, i.e. (in a good sense) let remain over, or (in a bad sense) to desert.  (Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994).  Clearly, what took place on Golgotha was not simply a leaving behind or letting someone remain (in a good sense); rather, the word “forsaken”, taken in context, meant that God deserted Him.  He abandoned Jesus, leaving Him totally isolated.  Despite Jesus’ authority and power, He was left completely by Himself.  There are so many times in our lives that we feel that same way and just like Jesus, we cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

However, is this reality?  Are we really forsaken?  Has God deserted us, leaving us to our own devices?  Are we truly alone?  Surely, no one has ever experienced this sense of loss, this feeling of pain and abandonment?  Surely, I am the only person who has ever felt this way before.  And, if this is the case, then why?  Why do I have to deal with it? 

2 Corinthians 4:8-11

** New International Version

King James Version

8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.

 

8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not  forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

 

The reality is that while we may feel like God has abandoned us, that is not the case.  We are pressed, we are tormented, we are troubled, we are persecuted but we are not destroyed.  I recognize that there are times when we feel like we are standing on the brink of oblivion but we are not forgotten.  God knows and God cares. 

We do not live for ourselves; rather, we now live for God.  We live according to His purpose and sometimes that is a purpose that we cannot discern.  If you choose to give your life to God, why do you complain about what He does with it?

The life of Jesus should be revealed in the way we live.  We are given an imperfect body, a body that is dying (some more quickly than others) so that His life might be revealed through us.  Your physical life, while trying and terrible in some ways, is no longer your own.  Perhaps you have heard the words to a popular Christian contemporary song:  I am not my own, I was bought with a price.  I was purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  All my debts were paid by His sacrifice.  Hallelujah to the Lamb Who redeems my life.   

 

Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Corinthians 7:23-24

** New International Version

King James Version

Acts 20:28

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

 

1 Cor 6:19-20

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

 

1 Cor 7:23-24

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.

 

Acts 20:28

28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

 

1 Cor 6:19-20

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

 

1 Cor 7:23-24

23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. 24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

 

This idea that we were purchased with the precious blood of Jesus is a foreign concept to the world.  Why would we willingly subject ourselves to a life devoted in service to a person who lived two millennia ago?  The answer – love.  He first loved us and gave Himself up willingly for us so that we could spend eternity in His presence.  When I repented of my sins and asked Jesus to come into my life to be my Lord and my Savior, I willing surrendered to Him.  I yielded my life to Him; my body and my soul became His.

Yes, I know what it means to feel like God has turned His back.  I understand and can relate to what you are going through.  I actually do feel your pain.  After starting life with what was initially diagnosed as terminal cancer, I endured my early years of pain thinking that the day would come when I would finally be released from these difficulties.  After all, the doctors told me that I had gone through the worst of it and that I would have no more need to wear a body brace after I had achieved my full height.  Only after entering my middle years of life did I find out that my belief was only a belief – it was not reality.  In the past four years, I have dealt with a crippling physical condition that mandated comprehensive reconstructive spinal surgery.  The second surgery left me in a six week coma from blood sepsis, e-coli and staph; I also went through two bouts of pneumonia while in the coma.  Ultimately, the seven major spinal surgeries I endured left me crippled and dealing with severe chronic pain on a daily basis.  Even the most effective (and addictive) narcotic pain medication could only “take the edge off” and then only for a short while.  It left me with extreme nerve damage to my legs and surgical wounds that took four months to heal as I lay in a hospital bed.  The year and a half I spent laying flat on my back left me in a state of despair wishing that my life would end.  Rehabilitation only took me so far after that experience and thoughts of suicide became a serious concern.  Even now, I deal with third degree burns resulting from an error in judgment, i.e. falling asleep on a heating pad while trying to assuage the pain.  Surely, God had turned His back on me.  Surely, I had been forsaken.  And yet, I was still alive when all of my doctors thought that I should be dead.  I was still functioning, if a bit more slowly, while others younger than I met their end.  I could not understand.

Hebrews 13:5-6

** New International Version

King James Version

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" 

 

5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

 

Had God turned His back upon me?  Was I forsaken, deserted, abandoned?  Or, had something else taken place?  Why would God let these things happen to me?  Hadn’t I tried to live a good life?  Hadn’t I done the things He would want from me?  After all, I had been a Sunday School teacher for many years; I had served on church committees; I had been a deacon; I had been a trustee; I had tithed; I had served; I had given to the poor; I had helped my fellow man.  There are sure a lot of “I’s” in there, aren’t there?  On the other hand, was my spiritual life so precious to God that He was willing to let me endure these hardships for a greater purpose?  If I am His child, then didn’t it hurt Him to see me go through these things?  Then, why would He let me?

Forsaken – never!  Loved – absolutely!  He loves me so much that just like Paul, His grace is sufficient for me.  When I had no one else, He was there.  When everyone thought I would die, He sustained me.  When I faltered, He encouraged.  When I lost hope, He rescued me.  When I was weak, He lent me His strength. 

I am convinced that God is much more concerned about our spiritual well-being than He is about our physical well-being and He will allow life’s circumstances to drive us to where we must be – on our knees at the foot of the cross – if that is what it takes to conform us to His image.  (In church context, we call that “sanctification.”)  What we endure in this life is not important; how we respond to life’s trials is because it reveals our character. 

Now, at this point in my life, I yearn for Him.  I long to be with Him.  I am a foreigner far from home and like the prodigal son, I only want to see my Father’s face.  My life is His; I gave it to Him and I will not ask for it back.  I pray that He use my life to His glory, His honor, His purpose and that it be a life lived as a daily sacrifice for Him.  If I can just do that, then perhaps one day I will stand before my Savior to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Then it will all be worthwhile.  Until that time, no matter what life may throw at me, I know that I am not forsaken; instead, He loves me enough to refine me as through fire.  And I also know that when He molds me and makes me, He must hold me, never letting me go.  How do I know, you might ask?  Because He is my Father and I am His child.  He died for me.  After all that, He isn’t about to lose me.  Or you.

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