“Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

Sorrow to Joy

Many thanks to the Full of Eyes ministry for these images. Please view this image on the ministry’s Facebook page as well.

As Good Friday comes to a close and we approach Easter Sunday, I felt it was a good time for a new devotional post. However, it was the struggles in my personal life that led me to meditate on these particular words, some of the last Jesus spoke from the cross.

The cry “why have you forsaken me?” is charged with so much pain, so much desperation, that you can hear it even when silently reading the words. This cry from a human toward God is not an uncommon one; indeed, it is one that most Christians will probably make at some time, or at many times, in their lives.

I won’t venture to explain the theology behind Jesus saying, “Why have you forsaken me?” to the Father. Scholars have speculated over what was actually happening in this moment between the Father and Jesus, but I don’t think that’s the most important thing to glean from this passage. What I intend to consider is, Jesus said it, so what does that mean for us when we go through sufferings of our own?

For the past few weeks, I’ve struggled with feeling abandoned by God. I found out unexpectedly that my dog, my constant companion for the last several years, who is nowhere near old age, is very sick. Like, terminally sick. I know this is not the worst problem that someone could be asked to deal with, and I hope that my sharing this does not make anyone feel that I am cheapening their suffering. But, I know that anyone who’s raised a dog from a puppy – or even just loved a pet – will understand how I feel.

Lately, I sometimes feel forsaken by God, not because I think He’s not there, or that He doesn’t care, but because He’s not giving me the easy way out. He didn’t stop this from happening, and I know He could have. As a Christian, of course I knew there would be suffering in life. But when it suddenly happens, we wonder why our good and loving God doesn’t just make it go away.

Jesus spent a lot of time in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion, wrestling with the Father over this very same issue. He knew the Father could take away the coming agony; He knew that with a word He could bring legions of angels there to drive away the mob. But He didn’t. He trusted the Father enough to say, “‘not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39, MEV).

I chose this particular image for the post because it is based on John 16:20: “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (ESV). The Full of Eyes Facebook post accompanying this image points out the incredible joy that resulted from the sorrow of the crucifixion. Beloved, there is no deeper sorrow, no deeper pain, than what Jesus suffered in our place. Yet His agony became hope and joy and glory for all of His fallen creation. It is the greatest triumph, the defeat of death itself.

It is not always easy to accept the idea that our present suffering will eventually turn to joy. In the moment, all we feel is the pain, and it can seem as if God is callously standing by, letting us endure chaos just to make us a better person. Yet He doesn’t just stand by. He engages in the sorrow with us, and He never allows it to endure longer than necessary.

Jesus’ cry from the cross comforts me because it shows that it’s okay for us to ask this question of God. Jesus did. God invites you to ask why He has forsaken you. He invites you to throw all your pain, anger, frustration, and brokenness all onto Him. He can take it. Scream, throw things, cry your heart out – wrestle with God. Life can be messy. Pain can be ugly. But God invites us to engage with Him in even our darkest and most pain-filled moments. He wants us to share all of life with Him, even when that involves feeling angry at Him. He already knows how you feel, but He’d like you to tell Him.

I don’t understand why God has allowed this suffering into my life. I don’t yet know how He intends these events to play out. I’m sure there will be many more moments when I cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” But I also know that because Jesus endured the suffering of the cross, allowing me to be reconciled to God, my sufferings are not without purpose.

Sometimes suffering is just life – creation itself is still groaning until its redemption at Christ’s return (see Romans 8:22), so we can’t expect things to be easy. I wish we could. But in the midst of my pain, I have to believe that the same God who turned the suffering of Jesus into the greatest victory of all time can also turn my suffering to joy. And in the meantime, even when I feel forsaken, I know that I am not alone.

Approach the Throne, Part 4 – Believing His Forgiveness

Hey guys, remember that “Approach the Throne” blog post series I was going to do regularly? Well, it hasn’t been as regular as I hoped, but it’s baaacckk!

Today we’re moving into the second part of the study. In the first part we looked at who God is, and now we’re going to start discussing who we are. These are the two realities we are confronted with when we approach God’s throne. We’re starting our discussion of God’s grace towards us by focusing on His forgiveness – and our confidence in it.

John 3_16

Please view this image here on the Full of Eyes ministry website. This image is used by permission.

When we first accept Christ as our Savior, we have to an extent “become conscious of our sin” (Romans 3:20, NIV). We realize that we are sinners in need of redemption and specifically, we want the redemption offered by Christ. This is what prompts us to come to Him, and when “we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV).

The more time we spend with God and in His family, however, the more conscious we become of our own sinfulness. We realize that the depravity we recognized when we first repented is immensely deeper than we realized: if you want to know how bad you are, consciously try to do good and see how often you stumble.

God’s intention is to make us more conscious of our sin so that we might repent of it and let Him purify us. But very often, something else happens: we start to feel that God’s grace and Christ’s blood are not enough. We think that the righteousness of Christ that we have been clothed with (see Isaiah 61:10 and Galatians 3:27) is transparent, showing our ugliness beneath Christ’s beauty.

The more we see of our sin, the more we feel obligated to walk around with our heads bowed in shame, as if in penance – as if any penance we can offer is more sufficient than what Jesus accomplished for us. Somehow, we assume this is the way to honor God: by holding onto our guilt and pulling away from Him. We feel the weight even of forgiven sins, even though “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12, NIV).

I have fallen into this trap far too many times. So often I have thought of Jesus’s return, and while I want that to happen, my strongest response tends to be fear. What happens if I didn’t get everything right (as if anyone can)? What will He say to me? Will He be ashamed to look at me, as I often feel ashamed of myself?

Dearest, Jesus opens our eyes to our shame so that He can take it away. We do God no credit when we refuse to release our sins to the sufficiency of Christ’s blood – all we do is tell God we don’t believe Him. Holding onto sin and guilt is not holiness, but pride and unbelief hiding under false humility. It’s us trying to say, “I’m a sinner, but somehow I can atone for it myself, if I just embrace the guilt long enough.”

The greatest gift you can give God is to believe Him. You will never have an intimate relationship with Him as long as you let yourself doubt the sufficiency of His sacrifice – and how can you tell others to put their faith in God’s redemption if you don’t truly believe it yourself? This is where the rubber meets the road, where you have to trust God enough to stake your eternal destiny on His promises. If He says you are forgiven and covered with Christ, then so you are! If He says you are destined for heaven, THEN IT IS INDEED SO!!!

Beloved, if you do not believe Jesus’s sacrifice to be sufficient, then what sacrifice is left (see Hebrews 10:26)? What more could He have done for you? What Lamb could have been a more perfect offering?

Do not believe the devil’s lie that you must remain in the dark with your sin, lest God should see what you really are. He always knew what you were, better than you ever have. Only in the light are we healed and freed: “‘And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God'” (John 3:19-21, ESV).

In his gospel account, John is refers to himself as “the one whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2, ESV). At first glance, this might sound presumptuous. But John knew how Jesus saw him. He never described himself as sinless, but He was confident in the sufficiency of Jesus and His love.

God wants you to be bold, my friends. He wants you to dare to believe Him. The Gospel is astounding, even ludicrous in its message: a sinless, omnipotent God sacrificed Himself as a perfect sacrifice to save His creation. Dare to accept what God has been telling you all along.

I leave you with these verses from John’s first letter:

God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:16-18, ESV).

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, ESV).

New Wattpad Story Announcement!

Hello everyone! About a week ago I saw the new Beauty and the Beast movie in theaters, which has always been one of my favorite fairy tales. Thanks to the film, I’ve been thrown headlong into a fantasy/fairy tale writing mood, and I decided to take a short detour from my other projects to write a Beauty and the Beast retelling novella.

This novella, entitled “The Beauty or the Beast?”, is based on the original fairy tale (which is in the public domain), not the Disney version or any other adaptations. You can find the whole story on Wattpad here and I plan to be making regular updates! The Prologue is currently available to read and I’ve planned for ten chapters to follow before the story is complete.

Beauty or Beast cover

Current cover while the story is in progress. I’ll hopefully get a better one made before long.

Here is the story synopsis:

He was a Beast that everyone feared. She was a Beauty that nobody saw.

According to Belinda’s father, she is the image of her beautiful mother, the woman who died giving birth to her. But as Belinda reaches adulthood and never has even one suitor – in spite of the attention her sisters attract – she begins to wonder what’s wrong with her.

Then her father runs afoul of a Beast in an isolated castle, and Belinda sacrifices her freedom to save her family. Can a cursed prince and an overlooked commoner find happily ever after?

 

Thanks for checking out this post! I hope you enjoy the story. 🙂