At about three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?”
Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 27, verse 46
It’s not only Coronavirus that has hit us recently; many are still suffering from the UK flooding, in Australia from the wildfires, and in East Africa there have been massive swarms of locusts. We may well be wondering where God has been in all this.
When Jesus speaks these words, ‘why did you abandon me?’ he is clearly suffering from unimaginable pain and isolation. We assume it to be a direct quote from Psalm 22 found in the Old Testament, which Jesus probably knew by heart from his education in the synagogue.
It’s one of the darkest psalms. Much of it is about feelings of desolation, rejection, hopelessness. Often such feelings as physical pain, mental torment, exclusion, and spiritual wellbeing are all intertwined within us. Each affects the other. And any of them can make us feel that God has abandoned us.
You may well be feeling one or more of these at this difficult time, and that’s quite understandable. But if you read to the end of the psalm, we get little glimpses that God has heard our cry, that his eternal kingdom is not thwarted, and that this is not the end.
Jesus was able to endure the cross alone because he knew it had to be done, and that through his actions, the stranglehold of sin and death would be broken. He also knew that there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, that there would be the glorious light of a Sonrise on the third morning.
As we cope with our present frustrations, hold on to those glimmers of hope. The signs of love and caring that are popping up. The new ways in which the church is discovering to serve the community and share faith. And the long-term confidence that whatever happens, we are in God’s hands, and one day will be received into his glorious eternal kingdom.
And whatever you are feeling, know for sure that God has not abandoned you, even if it feels a bit like it. He will still hear your angry shouts at him, and your quiet cries, and those inner thoughts that you never manage to verbalise.
And despite all we are going through, may you discover that amongst it is a blessing.
Our prayers continue for you all, at The Living Well and beyond.
Rev. Stephen Hardy
Chair of Trustees