Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 15, 2004
Why have you forsaken me?
Do not despair during God's seeming silence
By MARK PICKUP
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
I know the stark terror of sleepless nights. I remember the feeling of being abandoned in my anguish, staring out the kitchen window at 3 a.m. while everyone else in the house slept peacefully.
The fresh shock of being told I had an incurable, degenerative disease filled me with a strange mixture of numbness and panic. The only sound was the steady ticking of a mantle-clock in the living room, chiming each quarter hour.
As I looked out into the backyard bathed in silver-blue moonlight, I was struck by the contradiction of the tranquility around me and the terror within. I wanted to run away. But run where? The terror was in my own body.
My future had stretched ahead of me so full of promise. Suddenly it was in ruins, or so I thought. My desperate prayers were unanswered. I felt deserted and alone. I remember looking up at the ceiling and saying to God, "If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them."
Do you see the problem? This is no way to approach the sovereign God of the universe. I was angry that my agenda had been derailed. I demanded to be delivered to my former self (couched as a prayerful petition). God was only welcome on my terms - he was not welcome on any other terms. (I suppose Christ could have rightfully responded, "If this is how you treat your friends, .")
Christ asked three times that his cup of suffering be removed, and yet each time qualified his request by a willingness to submit to his heavenly Father's will, whatever that might be.
Christ's request was not granted but an angel was sent to strengthen him for what he was suffering.
If God had granted Christ's earnest prayer request, the stain of humanity's sin would have remained. It is only through belief that Christ's blood at Calvary has paid the penalty for our sins.
Through faith and confession of our sin, we are reconciled to God.
Sometimes suffering has a far greater benefit than deliverance from it. We must quieten our hearts, humbly seek God and submit to his will in our lives, whatever that might be. Perhaps it is at the apex of suffering, and the door to God is shut and bolted, that the seed of real faith can germinate.
It is when all evidence of God's presence seems to have vanished from our universe that we have the unique opportunity to cry out with fellow-sufferers throughout the Ages: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" - yet still choose to believe and obey.
(Second in a series of Lenten articles)
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