The God Who Stays

We were visiting my sister and were ready to head out the door. I had forgotten something, so I turned to get it, assuring my family I’d be right down. I grabbed the item and raced down the stairs from Erna’s apartment to the parking lot only to discover my family was not there! “They left without me,” was my panicked childhood thought. I soon realized I exited the wrong door and entered the wrong parking area. My family was indeed waiting for me. Even though it felt like it, they had not abandoned me.

David started Psalm 22 in that same emotional place – feeling abandoned. He asked the question we’ve all raised at one time or another, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (v. 1)? We’d be surprised to know how many saints have prayed this prayer over the centuries! “In our own way you and I will pray this Prayer of the Forsaken if we seek the intimacy of perpetual communion with the Father” (Richard Foster, emphasis his). Foster argues this experience is “universal among those who have walked the path of faith.” Are you encouraged yet?  

We glimpse the tennis match held in David’s heart. The serve – God has forsaken me and is silent (vv. 1-2). He returned the serve by declaring God is still the holy One, who alone is worthy of our praise and our trust as has been demonstrated through the generations (vv. 3-5). But the volley continued.

David doubted his worth, not only abandoned by God but despised by the people. He was scorned, ridiculed and his faith mocked (vv. 6-8). But that was not the last shot. God who was present at his birth was present still. This learned trust sustained him and would once again. God is not “watching from a distance.” He is near and the source of our ongoing help (vv. 9-11).  
In recounting his circumstances (vv. 12-18) David seemingly transcended his own life, describing what Jesus would experience on the cross. From abandonment to dehydration to the piercing of his hands and feet to the dividing up of his garments, it is all there. Perhaps that is why Jesus quoted Psalm 22 from the cross. There can be no doubt Jesus fully experienced our humanity (cf. Heb. 2:17; 4:15), including feeling abandoned.

We are not “talking about a true absence but rather a sense of [God’s] absence. God is always present with us” (Foster, emphasis his). David had to acknowledge his feeling of abandonment before praise could truly flow. He had to confront his questions to emerge more secure in his faith. Then He could write, “He has not hidden his face from [me] but has listened to [my] cry for help” (v. 24). There is such joy and freedom in being brutally honest with God, knowing even the most difficult feelings can melt in the presence of “the God who stays.”

The abandonment I felt as a child melted when I saw my waiting family. I just hugged them and smiled. I still smile knowing I have a God who loves me, who will never leave or forsake me (cf. Heb 13:5), even when I ask the toughest questions of him or end up in the wrong parking lot. Are you encouraged yet?

Pastor David

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