Guest blogger, Dr. Terry Clees, shares his insight on, “God, why have you foresaken me?”

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

(Matthew 27:46, New International Version)

From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

(Matthew 27:46, The Message)

It really doesn’t matter how you translate or paraphrase Jesus’ final coherent words according to the Gospel of Matthew—it still sounds agonizing. It is the cry of a man at his end. It is the cry of a man who crossed the line from hopeful to hopeless. It is a line that a lot of us play hopscotch with as we go about our situations in life. We feel full of hope one minute, then a bit of bad news or an unfortunate incident sends us reeling into hopelessness. Does it matter that Jesus can say: “been there, done that”? I believe it does, but before I explain why let me explain why I think Jesus went from being hopeful to hopeless and wasn’t simply quoting the first line of Psalm 22.

Jesus was full of hope because he knew he was part of something big. Scholars will debate until they are blue in the face just how much Jesus knew and when he knew exactly what he knew. I think it is suffice to say he knew he was part of something big. He may have even known that the something big had to do with an apparent sacrifice—perhaps even a Father sacrificing a Son. But Jesus was familiar with Scripture and he would have known the story of Abraham and Isaac (Gen 21-22) like the back of his hand. In that story the apparent sacrifice went all the way to a knife at the throat before God intervened and provided an alternative to Abraham sacrificing his son, Isaac. Therefore, even when things looked difficult: friends sleeping when they should have been praying, the beatings, friends fleeing and denying, and even to the crucifixion Jesus could have been hopeful based on what happened with Abraham and Isaac.

However, Jesus gets to the point when he realizes the last second has passed—there will be no stay of execution and there will be no ram caught in the thicket. Jesus is going to die. No doubt that Jesus may have recalled Psalm 22 as he crossed into hopelessness, he probably was very familiar with it, but I think the words also carried meaning. He felt hopeless. Where was God? Jesus had been faithful all the way to the cross and now he was dying—why had God forsaken him!?

My son was severely injured in Iraq when the Humvee he was driving hit an IED. As I sat with him through weeks of being in a coma and many, many months of recovery I always found comfort in talking with parents who had a child in a similar situation. They understood the pain, anger and grief—we had that in common.

Jesus has promised to always be present to us; his presence is real and close even though at times it seems quite distance. When I am slipping back and forth between hopeful and hopeless I am often able to find great peace in Jesus being present with me because he knows exactly what I’m going through. The touch of his hand through a flower, the whisper of his voice in the wind and the steadying strength to take another step all gives me hope when I feel I have been forsaken.

Dr. Terry Clees is a pastor of a church in Adrian, MI where he has served the community the past eight years. His hobbies include weightlifting, coaching wrestling and writing. He earned his doctorate degree at George Fox Evangelical Seminary where he studied spiritual formation.


Mother’s Day

A day late and a dollar short but here are my thoughts on Mother’s Day.

While Mother’s Day is a lovely day for many, it is dreaded by some. Greeting card companies, businesses, and the media all make it into a colossal deal. It’s the one day a year that mom gets to be doted on. In kind, local businesses are hopping. Farmers markets are packed with smiling faces, restaurants are bustling with families dressed in bright, spring colors, and just about any other place that mom likes to be is a hot spot. The only way you can avoid the dogmatic suggestions of how to spend Mother’s Day is to avoid going outside, watching television, going on the internet, or interacting with other humans. On second thought, maybe staying in bed might do the trick. So why do some people have the blues on Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day, in one way or another, affects everybody because we all have mothers, but for some, it will bring to mind deep hurt.

The parent/child dynamic can be complicated, thus bringing up a wide array of hurts. If mom is dying, or is deceased, it can bring about aches of missing, longing, and loss.

Adopted children who have never known their birth mother might have a difficult time celebrating even if they have an amazing relationship with their adopted mother. For some, it can be a reminder of how rocky the beginning of their life was, bringing up feelings of abandonment.

However, the one segment of the population that is usually left out of the Mother’s Day blues equation are ones who have a strained relationship with their mother due to mental illness, moreover, their mother’s mental illness. Depression is affecting an ever growing number of the senior population and unfortunately many of them subscribe to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to their depression. As many of us know, this is a recipe for difficult relationships, and sadly, even more serious problems.

For many, they would rather not get into it because it brings about an emotion that we all hate, pity. Random people have pity for you, for your family, and what feels like, for your very existence. It’s an awful look to get, unmistakable, and is tough to shake off. We can all relate to the pity face, whether we are the recipient, or the perpetrator. This pity stems from a fairly common shared belief in much of the world; the belief that we should have a fantastic relationship with our mother, and if we don’t, then we are bad people. I’m kidding about that last line but you get the idea. Also, a helpful tip is that empathy is far better received than pity.

How can we help with the blues on this day?

If you are the person asking what someone is doing for Mother’s Day, and they give you the, “I don’t know” answer, don’t press. If you are close, and at a later time you would like to ask about it, please do, but don’t expect a dissertation on it days before Mother’s Day. It is painful, for many, to talk about.

If you are the person being asked and you have an tenuous relationship with your mother, it is perfectly OK to have the conversation with some folks. Its important to talk about our emotions but its equally important to talk about them with only a trusted audience. This is not only a painful subject but its also partially the story of someone else, your mother. It’s important to respect and honor privacy by not telling too much of their story by way of yours.

So how do you process these emotions the day of? One option is to hide in your house, feeling sorry for yourself, but another is to share the day with another woman who needs it.

With even a minimal amount of searching, you can find other people who are hurting over that day as well, and would love to be taken out. Women who have children who live far away, ones who have lost their child, or even grandmothers whose children will be spending the day with their children are likely to be very receptive to a fun day out. It is especially important for people with fractured families to form chosen families. After all, family, regardless of their origins, is the most important of all.