Praying Scripture: Why Have You Forsaken Me?

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Mark 15:33-34

On the cross, Jesus cries out the words of the psalmist in Psalm 22, evoking the cries of pain and abandonment as well as the pleas for deliverance. As we march towards Good Friday this week in the midst of uncertainty and fear, we can join Jesus in crying out for the deliverance of our God. Deliverance from this disease, but also deliverance from pain, oppression, injustice, and sin. We can hold on to the character and heart of our God: he listens; he sees; he heals; he delivers. He is worthy of our praise, but he accepts our lament as well.

Will you join me in meditating on this psalm as we approach Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial? It points us towards Jesus’ experience of the cross. It also holds out the hope of Easter. Right now, some of us need that hope more than ever. But darkness comes before the morning, just as the crucifixion has to come before the resurrection.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

Psalm 22 (NIV)

O Holy Father,
Today I come before you in pain, fear, grief, and anguish. Not only for what I see around me today in the midst of a pandemic, but for the fallen world around me. I am not innocent. I have been part of the sin that made Jesus’ death necessary. I am part of the reason that He hung on a cross and cried out in pain. I am part of the reason He experienced separation from You. Forgive me. Change me. Strip away all that does not honor You. Thank You for Your great love. Thank You that even when I feel forsaken and abandoned, You do not despise or scorn my suffering. You do not hide Your face from me. You hear my cries for help. Thank You that You are faithful. Help me to rest in Your grace and love. Transform me and make me more like Jesus, who humbled Himself and died a horrific death on a cross. Show me today what it looks like for me to be crucified with Him. Show me how You would have me love others as He does, putting their needs ahead of my own well-being. Help me to see myself, You, and Your great love more clearly today and to live out of that truth. I ask all of these things in the name of Your crucified and risen Son. Amen.

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