The feeling of being forgotten, ignored and unheard can be very painful. And this is the experience of so many Christians around the world. These include not only people we get to hear about, but many who die in difficult and painful circumstances and merely remain a statistic. The words of Jesus, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are as real to them as it was for Jesus (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22 and 2 Corinthians 5:21-6:13).
Receiving Strength in your Struggles
In moments of pain, we all feel this profound sense of loneliness – the distance between the “I” and the “Thou” during these moments becomes more pronounced than ever. In the case of Jesus, until this moment he had experienced an unhindered relationship with His Father since eternity, and now His suffering drives Him to cry out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This experience was all too familiar to America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer winner, Jane Marczewski aka Nightbirde, who recently passed away at just 31 years after battling cancer for four years. In her journal entries she writes, “When it comes to pain, God isn’t often in the business of taking it away. Instead, he adds to it. He is more of a giver than a taker… He doesn’t take away my darkness, he adds light. He doesn’t spare me of thirst, he brings water. He doesn’t cure my loneliness; he comes near me.”
Finding Light in Darkness
“He comes near me” – in the midst of our suffering Jesus draws near to us through his own suffering. Jesus’ cry is a quote from Psalm 22:1. It is meant to be the cry of an entire community. Similarly, I believe that Jesus here is identifying with the sufferings of this world and experiences; what it means to be concealed from God’s loving gaze. But at the same time strangely he draws all suffering persons to himself in one sweeping act of love on the cross. As Augustine says, Jesus is praying as the head and as the body.
Jesus’ cry from the cross is a reminder that he enfolds all our suffering and unites us to himself. This is comforting because, even if our pain is unknown and unheard of by the world – we are known and heard by Jesus. In light of this union, it might help to reflect on, what has Christ added to our pain? Has he added light? Has it enabled you to become a witness? Have you experienced his love through a neighbour or friend? Answers to these questions may help us see a glimmer of light in the midst of our darkness,
The Challenge to Identify with Others’ Suffering
However, Jesus’ identification with human suffering challenges the rest of the Christian community to identify with the suffering of others. If Jesus expresses his sense of abandonment within the context of a community – then we – those who are currently spared of suffering have to pitch in. Why? Because we are now united to the suffering of others through Christ. So we have to think of ways to help and offer a sense of community to other suffering Christians.
The cross becomes a constant prompt that suffering is not private; Jesus and the rest of the Christian community suffer with us. Suffering is not meant to be an individual and isolated experience but a cooperative experience of redemption and hope.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to listen, step in, and alleviate the pain of those who are suffering.