The Cross to the Grave, Part III – Forsaken

The fourth time Jesus spoke from the cross he cried in a loud voice “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (See Matthew 27:45-46 and Mark 15:33-34)

Forsaken. It means totally abandoned, deserted. His cry was as alarming as the darkness blanketing the land. Many standing nearby misunderstood his words. But a Jew would know Jesus was quoting the beginning of Psalm 22 written by David. 

The psalm begins with a cry of anguish, but quickly turns to a proclamation of trust in God. Then David’s words become prophetic. Similarities to the sufferings of Jesus are found throughout. Towards the end of the psalm David praises the Lord and speaks of a future when all will worship Christ the Lord.

Psalm 22 may help us imagine how Christ suffered. Being both fully God and fully human, he suffered physically, as a man, and also emotionally from false accusations, ridicule, and betrayal. But the forsakenness He experienced is unique to Him alone; a type of spiritual agony which human hearts cannot comprehend. Our Lord and Savior surrendered to God’s wrath against all human sin, for all time (2 Corinthians 5:21). Creation manifested the burden placed on our creator God – the sun failed (Luke 23:45) and the earth shuddered (Matthew 27:51).

Did God truly forsake Jesus on the cross, even for a few hours? Was the abandonment physical or spiritual or both? The answer seems beyond the reach of human understanding, but the prayers of Jesus shortly before His death assure us the bond between the Father and the Son was never broken. 

Next Post: The Cross to the Grave, Part IV – Prayers to the Father

It’s A Good Day

“It’s a good day.” Image Capture by Lon M Helmick. ©Anne Monroe Designs. All rights reserved.

Several years ago I read the book “Same Kind of Different As Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. This true story is rich with lessons in service, humility, love, and thanksgiving learned in the fires of intense suffering and loss. A thought from their book stuck with me. Ron and Deborah Hall meet a homeless man at the shelter where they serve. He always arrives with a smile. They ask why. He responds, “It’s a good day, I woke up.” When faced with her terminal illness, Ron and Debbie remember his words and grasp the truth that every day is a gift from God.

How would our lives change if we started every day with the same thought and really believed it? Would the sunrise seem remarkable? Could we be thankful for the cold, the heat, the wind, the rain, the ice, and the snow? Would a cloudy day be as welcome as a sun-filled day? Could the first person we spoke to that day, whether family or friend or stranger, be greeted with the realization God placed them in our lives or path for a reason? For our families, a life-long commitment. For our friends, perhaps a season. And for the stranger, perhaps only a single encounter.  It might be for their good, or ours, or both.

Jesus is our role model. Remember the times he fed the hungry, calmed the frightened, healed the sick, led the lost, forgave the sinner, and prayed for those around him. Our job as a Christ-follower is to watch and act and pray. Watch for signs someone near you has a need. Then act. Perhaps with a word of encouragement, or compassion, or loving confrontation. Perhaps with a physical gesture – a simple touch or embrace. Investing time can be meaningful – a coffee date, a shopping trip, a hospital visit – or providing for a physical need. Pray for the person to seek God for comfort and strength.

I am struck by the lives we live on this earth, the human condition – so much joy alongside so much heartache. I don’t know how anyone survives the heartache if they can’t find the joy. Within each heartache is an opportunity – to meet God, to know God, and to praise God – and experience true joy. And the opportunity isn’t for us alone. It’s an opportunity to draw others closer to God.

“It’s a good day.”