And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46)
I grew up thinking that it was a sin to have doubts and that that God would withdraw Himself from us if we had them. I’m not sure if I came by this understanding through listening to sermons at my grandparents’ conservative church, or through my own immature reflections on faith.
Although I was always fascinated with Jesus, I put off coming to terms with Him until my senior year in college. What finally caused me to wrestle with Jesus until I did have faith was His doubting. When someone in a class quoted Jesus’ cry of anguish from the cross— “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—I felt like I was given permission to have a faith that included wrestling, struggling, and doubting.
Even though I can’t imagine my life without my faith in Jesus, I still sometimes struggle with it. When children die of cancer, when evil and treachery prevail over decency and kindness, when very bad things happen to very good people, I struggle, I cry, and I wonder why it seems that God isn’t delivering us or answering our prayers.
I’m painfully aware that facing all the losses and deprivations of the Coronavirus is challenging the faith of many people. Where’s God? Why doesn’t He stamp out this virus, much less even allow it? Why are so many people dying so needlessly? Why isn’t God giving us the vaccine more quickly? If anyone were to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” I would understand.
One of the things that gives us hope on Good Friday is Jesus’ cry of dereliction. If Jesus could doubt, then it makes sense we would as well. If He could bring those doubts to God, then we can bring our doubts to Him. Jesus understands our pain. He feels our anguish. He cries with us and for us. He’s at our side.
If you are struggling with your faith during these challenging times, I hope that you aren’t chastising or condemning yourself. Judging your faith will not do your heart, mind, or soul any good. Instead of being critical with your faith, I would ask you to bring whatever faith you do have, or whatever faith you feel you don’t have, to the One who felt forsaken during His final breaths.
Jesus’ cry of anguish from so long ago joins our own cries of anguish today. If Jesus Himself could struggle, then He wants us to trust that there is no cry of distress from our hearts that will ever cause Him to turn away. His arms which were once nailed to the cross are stretched out even now, not by nails but by love. In His embrace we are given hope—hope now, and hope forevermore.
- What impact is the Coronavirus having on your faith?
- What does Jesus’ cry about being forsaken by God say to you?
- What hope does Good Friday give you as you face the challenges of this time?