“Have You Forsaken Me?”
Psalm 22: 105 (NRSB)
Matthew 27:46 (NRSB)
have lived my entire life hearing the question “Why?” Daddy was a preacher and I overheard his answer. Dad was a little ahead of his time for, as most of us say today, “We can know why?”
Rick Warren has been writing about his wife’s cancer. Despite the fact that his best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, is still a best seller, Kay’s cancer keeps coming back. The thousands of Saddleback, California church members and hundreds of thousands of his supporters have prayed their knees ragged, the cancer seems relentless.
If Rick has read any of C.S. Lewis he has the right to get into a silent place and cry out to God with his deepest disappointments and sense of feeling foolish. He has preached hard but God has “Slammed the door in his face,” as Lewis said after his wife died.
Some of us at St. John have recently seen two biographical motion pictures of this joyful and later horrid, time in the great scholar’s life, “SHADOWLANDS.” Several of you are reading the little, and last of Lewis’ fifty books, and are witnessing his deep bitterness and sense of failure as he cries out to God in desperation.
Dr. Lewis got his license to complain to God from none other than the second person of the Trinity: Jesus, from the Cross cried out, quoting from memory the words of the Psalmist 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus said it exactly that way and it was OK with the Father. God had hears that same cry many times from people in the fight with failure, disappointment, disease and death.
Lewis was crying out from the death of his wife. He had married Joy in his late fifties and had expected many years of bliss, but her cancer was relentless. It took Lewis months to understand it better and when he did he had some deep insights to share with the world. I would recommend his thin little last book to anyone facing a disappointing crisis; but start reading half way through, and then go back and read the hard part if you choose. By then you will want to read it all. A Grief major bookstores and at www.Amazon.com. There are thousands of Lewis’ books there every day.
Interestingly, Clive Staples Lewis had written an earlier book entitled, The Problem of Pain. It prepared Lewis for his greatest battle on earth. Even though he seemed to forget everything he had known about grief, and feelings of abandonment by God.
As always I looked up a lot of information about these texts, and I also did a word search from the many dictionaries online. A few of these synonyms of forsaken might help you too. You have thought of “abandonment.” I used to word “forsaken” already. “To turn one’s back on,” Captures the feeling. To fail someone in need, To turn one’s back on a friend. To jilt, drop or leave. To disavow, renounce, or abdicate. And there are many others that capture the personal and inner terror that we feel when we are forsaken.
And in the end we will all know, hopefully on this side of heaven, that ultimately “God never leaves us or forsakes us.” We can leave Him, but we are His forever, if we will hang on to the thread.
My departed mother live fifty more good years after having a radical mastectomy and cobalt treatments when she was forty-four. I remember her crying during her prays at the side of her bed, but I never heard anything but positive hope. She was tough and God was good. If there were moments of forsakenness she never let me hear it.
Her hero was Susanna Wesley, our founder’s mother. She had a hard life. Her husband abandoned her for seventeen years, with many small children. Finally her strong spine convinced her somewhat weak husband back home to Epworth.
Fortunately, John Wesley followed in his mother’s ways. “Mr. Wesley” taught his Circuit Riders to never quit until they were physically worn out. Some wore out early from the cold wet nights sleeping out doors. The average age of the death of Methodist Circuit Riders was under forty years. Methodist preachers are not that tough anymore, but we are still pretty tough. We share a faith that tells us that somehow, through the randomness of life, God Almighty will eventually, and finally, work all things out. After all, King David of the Old Testament originally penned these words of forsakenness and ultimate triumph. Note that even in David’s cry of torture, he still believed in God. He went to the right place with his petition. Some end up at the wrong place seeking answers, and they get feeble answers.
So, keep on praying for Rick Warren and his wife. He has helped a lot of folks and is now on the receiving end.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor