The close of 2012 seems so long ago. It has been less than a year but that Christmas twelve months ago finished up one of the most difficult years of my life. I slept straight through New Years Eve last year with zero parties attended. I had nothing to be impressed with or look forward to and grief was still with me. I met the clock changing to this year with sleep.
Despite everything, 2013 ended up bringing unexpected change and joy. There were moments of grace, rescue, prayers being answered, direction at long last from prayers that had gone on for years, love, joy; I could see the Lord meeting me with mercy and grace. The first four or five months or so of 2013 ended up being the best months of my life. My soul felt rest in a way it has never had before.
I wish I could say that was the definition of my year but sadly it wasn’t. Whilst 2012 was the worst year, 2013 seemed to end in a collapse of everything around me. The latter half of this year had tears and pain in every aspect of my life. Work, health, relationships, the future, my faith: very little felt untouched by exhaustion, pain, grief, tragedy, unanswered questions and a deep feeling that God had abandoned me. I have never been in such an awful place before. Nothing I had lived for the last ten years mattered. Prayer didn’t work. Nothing of a hundred broken promises and prayers and people around me, and my own soul ever would be restored. Grief would last forever. The Puritans would talk of a “dark night of the soul”… I think I found it.
The loss I felt with the Lord was the worst of it. I had a conversation with my counselor a few weeks back and she gently prodded me in my tears to think of anyone else who had felt abandoned by God. (Most of you can’t get away with this without me wanting to hit you.. so don’t try).
Hmm…. Job. (September and October were so bad I was kinda waiting for my house to fall in come mid November).
… “John the Baptist,” I said. (“Jesus are you the one or should we wait for another?” said the imprisoned prophet who spent his whole life preparing the way for Jesus to come but had a faith crisis as he was about to lose his head in prison)
Yes. She reminded me of Jesus. Jesus, the one who is God, the second Person of the Trinity. Jesus who spent an eternity in perfect relationship as God we call Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Jesus, God the Son, eternal, not created, who was born of a virgin, begotten: not the created kinda baby since he already existed from eternity’s past.
Jesus, who shows up on what we like to call Christmas, as a baby, to fulfill prophesy, be God with us, live perfectly and die for our sin, fulfilling the promise to Adam, the covenant with Abraham, the Law of Moses and every other promise God had made in one fell sweep. God showcases his mercy and justice and wrath and his love and grace and they all meet together in what Jesus did in his incarnation and death. On the cross Jesus calls out: “My God why have you forsaken me?”
I always find that one interesting. Jesus is God. He knows why. I mean if you are a geek on your Old Testament scripture, youshould know why. (I’m not expecting that of you.)
Sin has to be judged. Sinful people cannot stand before a holy God and live.
That was why the sacrificial system existed for a time. It was a foreshadowing of the coming judgment of Jesus, the perfect sinless, sacrificial lamb: the Perfect substitute. Yet, even knowing that, something horrifying was happening in the Trinity on that hill in Palestine. Jesus, God the Son is experiencing abandonment. The judgment of God the Father was on him for sins he didn’t commit.
Sins that we committed.
She didn’t need to say all of that. Again, I said that for you because I am guessing it’s a lot of stuff most of you don’t know. But forme.. all she said was: “Can you think of anyone else who felt abandoned by God…??” Then drew out.. “Jesus???” It was a loaded comment. Years of knowing Jesus myself and reading the Bible over and over and over. I knew it.
I don’t believe in silver linings or looking for the moral of the story or any junk like that on a normal basis, might alone these days. I have never cried so much in my life. The feeling of God’s abandonment has never felt so real. I have listened to these two sermons a lot. The one comfort, from the first one is that the Psalm Tim Keller preaches on doesn’t have a nice ending, a “praise the Lord” or a “this is how God has come through.” It ends in desolation. Keller chides us that God inspired this to be in the Bible because: “God knows how men speak when they are desperate.”
How desperate am I? Very.
How hopeful do I feel? Some days, I feel some shreds of hope. Most days the last few months: utter hopelessness. I have prayed the prayers of a desperate woman. At times, my prayers have been so irreverent; you would be appalled and shocked.
This week has been a good one for my weary heart. Some friends took me in for Christmas. I didn’t cry today in homesickness! I have gone a few days without the despair that is normally so constant. But even if I wake up tomorrow and there is a death or a disaster or a betrayal or my house has fallen in and that I continue to feel abandoned by God, I am here today celebrating Christmas in all of it’s meaning. That Christmas is all about Jesus. Jesus is the one shred of hope that keeps me when nothing has answers for why 2013 had the highest of joy end in unbearable pain and sorrow.
Jesus gets it.
He gets the abandonment. He gets my desperation. He understands betrayal and he was acquainted with grief. He was a man of sorrows. He gets the feeling that all hope is lost. Yet he willingly came to be born as a baby and die on a cross still so that we might be rescued from sin and death if we would only turn to him as our Lord.
Tomorrow I might wake up in tears again over a lot of unanswered prayers, loss, conflict unresolved, a sense feeling that God has abandoned me, questions, questions and more. I am still angry some days and in despair others and in confusion still others. The world makes no sense but Jesus came for me, he is God, there is much I don’t get about the Lord…but when I look to Jesus, and that first Christmas, I can sit and wait in my desperation.. for hope.