45 From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. 46 At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?” [Psalm 22:1]
3 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
Jesus didn’t ad lib these desolate words on the cross. They were the familiar first words of Psalm 22, a longer psalm about suffering and trust. They fit what Jesus went through as he gave himself for us. Scholar John Goldingay wrote, “The psalm isn’t a prophecy in the sense of a passage that says, ‘One day there will be a messiah to whom this happens.’ It’s a prayer for Israelites to pray when they need to, so it is hugely encouraging because it gives them permission to acknowledge their sense of abandonment and their fears without shame.”*
Pray. When someone is in the midst of a really challenging time, we might not know what we should do to help, but what we can always do is to pray. Giving our time to lift them in prayer is a reminder of the power of community.
In your journal, write the names of five people you will pray for today.
Lord Jesus, sometimes I suffer and feel forsaken. It means the world to me that you, God, didn’t stand aloof, but gave yourself in suffering for me. I offer you my heart, my love, my self. Amen.
* John Goldingay, Psalms for Everyone, Part 1: Psalms 1–72. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013, p. 71.
** William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew—Volume 2, Chapters 11–28 (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 369.
Jesus prayed a lot. He prayed in solitude, on the mountain, before meals, in the garden, and while he was dying on the cross. Jesus’ feelings of being left by God, forsaken and alone, helps me relate to the full human experience of Jesus incarnate. Tragedy, failure, loneliness and particularly difficult seasons of life have left us all feeling lost and forsaken, a painful reality of our own humanness.
Two years ago, I was walking through a particularly challenging season of life, one that left me feeling more lost and alone than I ever had. As I contemplated how I wanted to observe Lent that year, I decided I wanted to give up something that would be significant and meaningful to this particular season of life, so I gave up worry.
I had a strategy and thought I’d be able to breeze through observing Lent and maybe lighten my stress load at the same time. When I found worry creeping in, I decided I would do one of two things:
Giving up an intangible like worry is itself a challenge. I could put down the can of soda or bypass the cookies in the breakroom if I made a more common sacrifice for Lent. Worry isn’t so easy to pass by or set down. My Lenten journey that year helped me become aware of just how much time and energy I was giving away to worry. This awareness fueled my adherence to this strategy which meant I was praying A LOT. The addition of very specific prayer, much more frequent and intentional than my daily prayer habits had been to that point, was a game-changer for me. Instead of thinking I had two separate weapons to combat worry (do something or pray), I recognized that prayer was my “do something.” Jesus modeled this for us throughout the Bible, maybe so much that we take this powerful action for granted and instead see it as simply a habit. The lessons I learned from Lent 2017 completely changed my relationship with worry and led to a richer practice of my faith through these ongoing prayers.
Where in your life can you make prayer your “do something”? How do you need to take back your energy and attention from things that distract you from following Jesus?
*In 2018 I took another unique approach to Lent and gave up “judgy mom comments.” If you are interested in hearing how that also significantly changed my perspective as well as added to my prayer life, let’s have coffee 😊.
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