Every now and again something happens that causes us to cry out:
Do not forsake me, O Lord!
O my God, be not far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation! - Psalm 38:20,21
These words come at the end of Psalm 38, after the Psalmist has endured the most harrowing experience.
Tremendous physical pain: “no soundness in flesh”, “no health in my bones”, “utterly bowed down and prostrate”, “my sides are filled with burning”.
Overwhelming emotional suffering: “I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.” Ps 38:8.
Painful relational separation: “…friends and companions… stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.” Ps 38:11.
This physical, emotional and relational suffering appears to signal the end of his life: “My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.” Ps 38:10.
In spite of this complex compound of suffering the Psalmist expresses this seemingly contradictory hopefulness: “But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Ps 38:15.
We don’t have the final answer as to why God allows what looks like senseless suffering to happen, but what we do know is that he doesn’t stay far off, separate and aloof from it all. On the cross Jesus Christ, the Son of God himself endured tremendous suffering. He too cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” And although it sounds like the desperate cries of a forsaken man - there is a deep, unrelenting trust in the God that he still calls “My God, my God!” Matt 27:46.
After Christ’s resurrection the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles and the church to face overwhelming suffering with this same sure hope.
For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 2 Co 1:8–10.
Our Father in heaven, suffering is a reality none of us can avoid. Many of us are going through this right now. We pray that your ever abiding Spirit will draw us deep into your embrace, reminding us that you know our frailty, that you’ve experienced our suffering and that you will answer us in our distress. In Jesus’ name, Amen