Maybe it was when you were nine years old and your best friend moved away. Or perhaps the night your father screamed at your mother, slammed the door, and didn’t come back. Or when your grandmother died and you never again opened the back door of her farmhouse to be greeted by cookies baking, her bright smile, and her arms wrapped around you.
Whenever we first named the experience of feeling alone, it wasn’t by any means the first time we felt it. We experienced aloneness when, as babies, we woke in a darkened room, couldn’t hear the beating of our mother’s heart or our father’s rhythmic breathing, and couldn’t, even with our whimpering and crying, bring them to our sides. Before we could describe the experience, we realized there were times when the people we needed wouldn’t be near.
Jesus experienced abandonment. He died alone; his friends all “deserted him and fled” (Mark 14:50). Most painfully, he died without feeling the presence of God on which he’d always depended. Surrounded by darkness, just before he drew his last breath, Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
He drew those words from Psalm 22. They helped him voice his pain and gave him permission and courage to ask “Why?” Some people say that we shouldn’t question God, but I can’t trust a God who is too fragile for my questions. Besides, Job, the prophets, the psalmist, and Jesus show us that injustice, cruelty, and absurdity demand that we ask questions and lament.
We don’t always get answers. Sometimes nothing changes except this one crucial thing. When we feel alone, ask “why?” and listen closely. Sooner or later, we’ll hear a Voice whisper “I love you.”
What causes you to ask, or want to ask, “Why?” What do such questions tell you about what most matters to you?
My God, my God, “Why?” When will you reassure me of your love? Amen.