Let’s be honest, when we suffer intense pain, it is natural to feel abandoned.
I’ve had seasons in my life where I was going through something and it just felt like no one else could understand my problems. The truth is, when I am courageous enough to say it out loud to people that I trust, healing takes place. I will see that others are going through something similar and even if they can’t understand the details of what I’m currently experiencing, they understand enough to pray for me, check in on me and lend a listening ear for as long as it takes.
Today is Good Friday. I’ve always taken issue with the term “Good Friday”. I know why it is good. Jesus died for our sins and took away the penalty of them. He took away the sin, the shame and the condemnation that my sins deserve. We are justified in God’s sight because of what He did. I understand those concepts…however, there is so much surrounding the death of Jesus that just isn’t good.
Jesus was betrayed by someone close to Him. Someone that He had spent time pouring into and trusting with significant roles within the movement known as “The Way”. That person betrayed Him for the price of what was paid for a slave during His day.
He also endured unfair trials. By my count it was about six different trials He had to endure of false testimony and hateful vitriol from those present. He was verbally abused during those trials and mocked.
Jesus also was abused physically before His death. He was hit with rods, had a crown of thorns twisted onto his forehead and spit upon by trained killers. He was whipped and beaten beyond the normal limits of what most men could endure.
Jesus was then nailed to a cross, a way of death reserved for traitors, thieves and murderers. They raised Him up between two dregs of society and endured verbal abuse from one of them. As He endured the cross, on full display in front of an onlooking crowd, He was humiliated. People shouted things from the ground as Jesus slowly and painfully began to die.
Aside from all of this agony, the people that Jesus loved most, scattered and quickly abandoned all hope that this movement would succeed. Peter denied Him three times and the rest of the disciples hid for fear of suffering the same fate.
At the apex of Jesus’ suffering, this is what happened:
“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46
Now, I am going to jump feet first into a pretty sticky theological issue.
The question always comes up. “Did the Father turn His back on His Son in His hour of need?”
My answer to that, which you are welcome to disagree with, is no. My reasoning is that Jesus is a part of the Trinity and to disconnect any part of the Trinity means that God ceases to be God…in my opinion. That’s my quick answer.
However, I do think that another question needs to be asked:
Did Jesus feel like He was disconnected from the Father?
My answer to that is yes. I will default to my original comment at the beginning of this post.
When we suffer intense pain, it is natural to feel abandoned.
The word for “forsaken” in this verse means totally abandoned, utterly forsaken, to leave helpless. Jesus, at the apex of His suffering felt alone. There truly is no one on this planet, that could understand the level of pain that Jesus felt when He was nailed to the cross and took on the sins of the world on our behalf.
In many ways, He was alone. That being said, I don’t believe the Father ever abandoned Him.
There are other examples in the Bible of people who felt utterly alone. At the height of his suffering, Elijah said “I alone am left.” (1 Kings 19:10) This wasn’t true of him physically or metaphorically. There were other prophets at the time in his same situation but he couldn’t see it because he was hurting so badly.
David often felt alone and abandoned because of his suffering. As a matter of fact in prayer to God he said, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1-2) This wasn’t true of David either. He had his mighty men at the time of his suffering.
John the Baptist, the person who was supposed to point other people to Jesus, when he was imprisoned and facing beheading said “Are you the one? Or should we look for someone else” regarding Jesus being the Messiah (Matthew 11:3). John had forgotten that there were 12, technically 11, other disciples who had moments of doubt and kept following Jesus.
Not to mention that in all of these examples, God was with each of these people and maybe especially close to them when they were suffering horrifically. If this is true of them, certainly it is true of Jesus. I don’t believe Jesus was alone but I do believe that Jesus, being human as well as divine, fully felt the pain of the cross and felt forsaken.
If you are suffering, may today serve as a reminder that Jesus suffers with you. That even though you feel alone, as most people do, you are not. First, there are others that suffer as you do. There are people around you that may not be able to relate completely but they suffer just the same. I would even offer that there are people that can understand the type of suffering you are going through even if you are currently not connected with them.
There are others who understand your pain and can relate.
Aside from people understanding your pain, God knows and understands it. He is intimately acquainted with your suffering and knows the heights and depths of your sorrow and is with you even now.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
God understands our pain and is intimately acquainted with it.
Lastly I think that when we suffer, God is not only with us, we experience Him in a whole new way that we could never experience Him otherwise. There is this beautiful phrase in Philippians 3:10-11, Paul writes:
“My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.”
You can only know the power of resurrection by knowing the pain of suffering.
I know, I don’t like that either. However, when I am knee deep in pain it is comforting and reassuring to know that there is fellowship with God even when I feel like He has abandoned me. In other words when I don’t feel His presence, because of how painful my situation is, God is still there and He still loves me.
When we suffer, we know God in a way that we have never known Him before.
If there is anything good that comes out of Good Friday, it is this. God is with us in our pain and He has provided a way for us to connect with Him when we need Him most. The path or “the Way” to do that is through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus, out of love for you and for me, went to the cross to take away the penalty of sin and death so that we could connect with God both now and eternally.
That is what makes Good Friday good. I hope that is a source of hope and peace for you on this day.
Easter is coming!