“My God! My God, why have you left me all alone? Why are you so far from saving me–so far from my anguished groans?” Psalm 22:1 (CEB)
Have you ever felt this way? Years ago I read something that has always stuck with me: “When you feel far from God, guess who moved?” I’m not sure if the theology behind the statement is all that sound, but it seems to be a good reminder that we tend to leave everything up to God and expect God to be the one to “zoom down” and fix things. It doesn’t work that way.
However, the feelings of abandonment, the sense of lonesomeness, the deep grief that comes from the Psalmist has also been part of our experience at some point in our lives. In one of the churches I served years ago, there was a woman in Bible study who said that she hadn’t experienced anything really negative in her life. She said she was blessed to have had a happy, non-eventful life to that point.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish negative or heart-wrenching experiences on anyone, but I do think she will be in for a let down at some point. It’s very easy to see God as all-loving, grace-giving, and the caring heavenly Parent when things are going well. But when we are down and out, we also easily blame God for our troubles (“What did I do to deserve this?”) or we think God has forgotten about us or abandoned us.
When my great-nephew was born way before he was due, he struggled for his life at just over a pound and half in weight. He fit in the palm of his father’s hand. When he died a week later, our family grieved his loss, and his grandmother questioned why God would allow such a thing to happen when so many people had been praying for him. They are valid questions. Why didn’t God answer their prayers for the little guy to live?
The grandmother’s question to me was, “What good does it do to pray if God just sits there and does nothing about it.” They cried out Psalm 22 in their own words. I think it’s important to remember that God doesn’t “zoom down” to fix everything, and our prayers are for our connection with God to gain strength in difficult times and to find ways in which we can minister to each other and those who are struggling.
Let’s face it: life isn’t fair, but that isn’t God’s doing. We have freedom of choice, and many of us have to choose between good and evil, between offering help or ignoring. As Christians, we are called to offer a helping hand, a shoulder on which to cry, loving support – that’s how God works in our lives. The more we worship, study, and grow in faith, the more we build a relationship with God that helps us keep on keeping on in the tough times, and it also helps us to be ministers to those in need.
The song that continues to sing in my head is Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” It reminds the listener that we are the bridges that help to hold each other up when the troubles come into our lives. It’s our calling as followers of Christ, and it’s the gift we have to offer. It’s the way God works though us as God’s hands and feet in the world. May we claim that calling and live it through example and outreach.