My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? (Psalm 22:1 NLT)
By Fr. Chris Lee OFR
Many of us have felt alone at times, and wondered if we have been forgotten or forsaken. This is a common feeling that our Biblical heroes also felt. For instance, Job felt this way in the midst of his suffering (Job 16:11; 30:20). The Israelites felt this way while being pursued by the Egyptians (Exodus 14:10-13). And yes, even Jesus felt this way on the cross (Matthew 27:46). Perhaps the most prolific writer on this topic is David who often felt forgotten or forsaken, even by God. Lets examine these feelings through David’s lens in Psalm 22:1-2; 23-24.
The trials and tribulations of daily life come at us in many different ways. Often we are caught off guard when unusual circumstances, tragedy, and crisis come knocking on our door. Almost instinctively, our immediate reaction is panic and uncertainty. This can cause us to feel as though we have been forsaken, and yes at times even by God. David penned the words of Psalm 22:1-2 in such a situation when he wrote, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.”(NLT) We must remember that it is one thing to “feel” alone, it is another thing altogether to be truly abandoned.
In the same Psalm where David “feels” forgotten and forsaken by God, he also realizes that he is in fact NOT! “Praise the LORD, all you who fear him! Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob! Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.” (Psalm 22:23-24 NLT) As David thought about his life, his many hardships, and trials, he realized the difference between his “feelings” and the facts. The truth is, God never forsook David or abandoned him in any way. Not even in his worst sins. God was there through thick and thin, giants, wars, family issues, and government decisions. God was with David from birth to death, using everything in his life to shape him into the man after God’s own heart. God was parenting.
As a parent, I remember when my children were toddlers, learning to take their first steps. I remember how I used to hold them up and help then put their first foot forward. When I could see that they were getting the hang of it, I always let go so that they could learn their center of balance. I also remember how scary it was for them when I would let go. I’m sure they felt forsaken and maybe even abandoned because they couldn’t “feel” my hands and support. Yet in all actuality, I was never more than 3 inches away from them at any time during the lesson. And yes, we repeated the lesson over and over until each one of them could walk on their own. This simple exercise in parenting taught me valuable lessons about our perfect Father in Heaven. There will in fact be times when we don’t “feel” Him, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there. “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you." (Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT)