Every once in a while I come across the question: What is your favorite Bible passage? I didn’t really have a favorite one, but the one that has continually spoken to me over the years is right in the very beginning of Scripture when God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” The reason it continually speaks to me is because I see it in played out every day, how so much of what we do comes from our need not to be alone.
Over the last two years, Marc and I have done an awful lot of reading and listening to people share their stories of grief and suffering. Some we have sought out so as to feel connected and not so alone. Other times it is because the other person is doing the same thing, seeking a connection by sharing with us so they’re not so alone. The thing Marc appreciated the most about the last Compassionate Friends meeting was that connection with the other fathers. He wasn’t alone! He understood the other fathers better than he understood the mothers and no doubt he felt more understood by the fathers than he previously felt by the mothers.
Certainly for me, since Bernadette got sick and died, I’ve never felt so alone in my life – whether in a room full of people or being the only person in the room. One of the reasons Compassionate Friends was started is because a pastor recognized that he could not help two separate couples who had each lost a child. It wasn’t until he put the two couples together and they connected with each other’s pain and didn’t feel so much alone that they began to heal.
That experience is universal in the sense that we all tend to seek out those who are going through what we’re going through. If we’re suffering from cancer we aren’t looking to join a heart and stroke support group. If we’re overwhelmed because we’re taking care of babies 24/7 we don’t seek out the support from AA. We go where we feel a connection, where we’re not alone.
The other thing is that even though we have similar experiences, ours is still as uniquely individual as is our responses when it comes to grief and suffering. Even then I’ve noticed one common thread from Marc’s and my own experiences along with many of the people who have shared with us or people we’ve read about: how when something devastating happens we turn to God and cry out, “Where are You in this suffering? Why did You allow this to happen? What did I do to deserve this?” For many, our suffering then becomes a catalyst in a new search for God. This search can range from our house of cards crashing down around us and we have to start over, to putting us on the journey for the very first time. But it’s just interesting to me that it is a very common reaction that we turn to God in our suffering – maybe more so than in our joys.
All that to say that I’ve noticed common ground in our need for connection, our need for God, and our need to connect with God.
Yesterday those needs all converged into one when I was crying and looking at the crucifix and I could hear Jesus cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
I’ve heard many preachers and pastors, and read commentaries, explaining that Jesus, being a faithful Jew, was just praying Psalm 22. What if He wasn’t JUST praying Psalm 22? What if in His humanness (‘being like us in all things except sin’) He too was feeling painfully alone in His suffering and He too was crying out to God because He felt forsaken – the same way we feel lonely and forsaken when terrible things happen to us?
God’s words, “It is not good for man to be alone” came full circle! In my intense loneliness and isolation, it was like Jesus was saying, ‘I know how alone you are, I’ve been there too, and I’m the only one who can descend into your pain with you. You are not alone, I am in here with you! Jesus took my needs to the next level! He offered not only connection but communion!
I know this should have been a no brainer from the beginning but it didn’t because I had that deeply embedded idea that Jesus didn’t feel forsaken or terribly alone; He was just teaching us by example to pray an appropriate prayer that fits our circumstances at the moment and I’d skip over His words. But now being opened to the idea that Jesus experienced the pain of loneliness and forsakenness too, it’s hard to feel quite so alone anymore. Jesus understands far more than I originally dared to imagine! Not only that, if He struggled with feeling forsaken by God, how can it be wrong for us to feel forsaken too and why should we be shamed into thinking that we’re not being very faithful because we’re struggling?
But I can’t stop there. All four Gospels have a slightly different account of the last words of Jesus. In the Gospels of Matthew and Marc they say He cries out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” and in Luke’s Gospel, He then says, “Father! In Your hands I place My spirit!”
Even when He was feeling forsaken, He didn’t hesitate to trust God the Father so much so that He gave up His spirit to Him! Whereas I’ve done the opposite, I’ve run away from God and severely doubted His love, Jesus showed me the way through my suffering and forsakenness – give myself unreservedly to God. St. Paul’s “NOTHING can separate us from the love of God” takes on a whole new meaning too!
Now I do have a favorite Scripture passage. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”
Oh Jesus, please grant me the grace to follow You back to our Father!!!!