“O Lord, why do you stand so far away?
Why do you hide when I am in trouble?”
(Psalm 10:1, NLT)
Does God move?
In my Christian discipleship, I had been taught that our holy God cannot be in the presence of sin. For a long time I accepted that idea as fact. I’m sure there were proof texts given to me then that seemed to support it. So, I believed it. But, I wonder, if God is in a place and sin shows up, does He move?
I had never really thought too much about it over the years, because according to my faith tradition, Christ paid the penalty for my sin and therefore I, made clean by Christ’s sacrifice, can enter God’s presence. I just had to make sure I confessed my sins in my prayers.
I was also taught that God turned His back on Jesus the day He hung on the cross. Because Jesus bore the sins of the world, and since our holy God cannot be in the presence of sin, He had to abandon His Son that day. So, I wonder, if God is in a place and sin shows up, does He turn His back?
In the struggles, trials, lows, and disappointments life often brings, I often wondered, why did the Lord seem so far away? Was He hiding when I was in trouble?
Recently, I read a book that, in one chapter, explored that very idea. In He Loves Me, Wayne Jacobsen, asks “Could the Faithful One be unfaithful to his Son at his darkest moment?”
He asks this because of the way Jesus’ cry on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” has often been taught. That God indeed turned His back on His Son.
But, Jacobsen rejects the idea that God moved, that God turned His back. Instead, he says, “Of course not. Even when Jesus told his disciples that they would all leave him alone, he said he would not be alone for the Father was with him. I don’t believe for a minute that the Father forsook the Son. But there could be a vast difference here between what God did and what Jesus perceived. Jesus undoubtedly felt forsaken, but that doesn’t mean he actually was.”¹
He goes on to say “It is likely at the moment on the cross when God’s wrath was consuming the sin he had become, he couldn’t even see the Father with whom he had shared fellowship through all eternity. Sin blinded him, and he felt as if God had forsaken him.”
Might that also be true, to a lesser degree, of us? Remember, the Psalms are a cry of the heart. Might the Psalmist, in the midst of the trouble, only feel as if God was standing far away, that He had hidden Himself? Might we, also, in the midst of trouble, feel the same way? Our troubles blinding us and making us feel forsaken.
What a joy to know that our loving Father does neither. He does not leave us or forsake. Even when we feel that way, we can confidently say, as the Psalmist declared in the end, “Surely you will hear my cry and comfort my heart by helping me.”
Father, when the darkness closes in, may I still say, “blessed be Your name,” because you never leave me, never forsake me, never leave me in times of trouble.
grace & peace
¹Wayne Jacosen, He Loves Me, pg 126
Just like you I had been told quite often that God had turned his back while Jesus hung dying on the cross.
Jacosen’s ideas are comforting.
I also came across this:
Repeating from the Cross the first words of Psalm 22 “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” — “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46); uttering the words of the Psalm, Jesus prays at the moment of His ultimate rejection by men, at the moment of abandonment; yet He prays, with the Psalm, in the awareness of God’s presence, even in that hour when He is feeling the human drama of death.
However, a question arises within us: how is it possible that such a powerful God does not intervene to save His Son from this terrible trial? It is important to understand that Jesus’ prayer is not the cry of one who meets death with despair, nor is it the cry of one who knows He has been forsaken. At this moment Jesus makes His own the whole of Psalm 22, the Psalm of the suffering People of Israel. In this way He takes upon Himself not only the sin of His people, but also that of all men and women who are suffering from the oppression of evil and, at the same time, He places all this before God’s own heart, in the certainty that His cry will be heard in the Resurrection: “The cry of extreme anguish is at the same time the certainty of an answer from God, the certainty of salvation — not only for Jesus Himself, but for ‘many’” (Jesus of Nazareth, II, pp. 213-214 Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2011).
– See more at: http://www.adoremus.org/0313Benedict.html#sthash.uKx2R854.dpuf
Thanks so much for taking us all on this journey through the Psalms Jill.
I love the thought that Christ brought the suffering cry of all people before the heart of God and that we can have confidence our Heavenly Father will answer. Thank you for the link. Those moments on the cross, the time span before the resurrection, go deeper and farther than I think we can humanly understand. But one day, we shall see fully. Until then, we continue to explore them.
I’ve also heard that the Jews, hearing Jesus speak the first words of the Psalm 22, would recount the entire Psalm. The Psalmist speaks of trusting in the Lord and knowing full well “He has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.” And indeed, the final words of the Psalm “His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done,” are true because two thousand years later, we continue to proclaim what our God has done.
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