Godforsaken

CW: depression

Often, when I am experiencing the lowest moments of my depression, I wonder whether God is there or not. It certainly feels like He has abandoned me. There seems to be no joy, no hope, no future. In those moments, it can be really difficult for me to pray and read my Bible. Why bother to speak and listen to a God who appears to be distant and apathetic?

Jesus was godforsaken
so that we do not have to be
feel it, we might
be it, we need never
Revd Hugh Palmer, Rector [1]

And yet, on this Good Friday, I was reminded of how vast and almost beyond comprehension is God’s care, for He sent His only Son to die on a cross on my behalf. As He was hanging there, bleeding and dying, He cried out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Elsewhere, Jesus said that He and the Father are one (John 10:30). Yet at that moment, as the sins of the world were imputed upon the Righteous One and the just wrath of God descended upon Him, that perfect union between Father and Son was in some way shattered. Perhaps not literally, but it must have certainly felt that way given Jesus’ cry of anguish. It is the only recorded incident in the Bible where He does not address God as His Father. Jesus experienced the greatest sense of abandonment from God that any human has ever felt as He took upon Himself the punishment that a sinful humanity deserved. One could only imagine the feelings in the other direction, as the Father watched His Son slowly dying a painful death. God knows and can identify with my pain and suffering, be it physical or emotional or spiritual, because Jesus experienced it altogether many times over during those several intense hours on the cross. And He has promised a renewed reality, where death and mourning and crying and pain will be no more (Revelation 21:4).

Now when Jesus breathed His last, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Behind that curtain lay the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God dwelt so intensely that only a ritually clean High Priest could enter once a year on the Day of Atonement. The torn curtain, therefore, symbolises the opening up of the way to God. Regular people are no longer barred from approaching God if they believe in Jesus’ sacrifice once for all for sin. And as someone who does believe, the Bible assures me that I am God’s child, fully adopted into His family. His door is always open for me. His loving arms are always held out wide, ready to receive me. I just need to remember these truths when the feelings do not match up and run to Him. Jesus was godforsaken so that I do not have to be: that is such good news to hear afresh.

Footnotes
1. All Souls Langham Place, 2018. Good Friday Service of Meditation (Part 2 of 2), Good Friday Service. [podcast] March 2008. 

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