(February 21, 2008)

This is a piece I wrote for my new book, A Firm Place to Stand.

…God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

My worst moments are occasional feelings of abandonment. I usually experience these at night. I have a sense of doom, a chilly emptiness. There is nothing to hold on to. No hugs are tight enough to take away my sense of disconnectedness. I’m filled with a huge sense of insecurity. I cannot sleep.

I don’t know where these feelings come from. Are they part of my bipolar disorder, or are they the result of multiple separations from family due to illness and hospital stays when I was young? Could they be Satan’s work? But the cause doesn’t really matter, does it? All I know is that at times such as these I need to go to my Bible. I need to pray. I need Jesus.

Some of the worst suffering Jesus endured was the sense of abandonment he felt in the Garden of Gethsemane as he tried to come to terms with the cross he knew he had to face. While he was in emotional anguish, his closest friends slept. Even Jesus, the Son of God, needed support from his earthly friends. “Can’t you understand that I need you?” was in essence what he cried out to his disciples as they wiped the sleep from their eyes. They had no idea what he was dealing with. Neither do my earthly friends when I’m in need. How can one person possibly understand what is happening in the mind of another? Only Jesus understands. He knows pain.

I can’t fathom how horrifying it must have been to deal with abandonment in the face of having wrists and feet nailed to a cross and being left to die a slow, excruciating death. I’m sure the cross would not have been as painful had he known there were friends below, expressing love and concern. But his friends deserted him. The people for whom he was dying mocked and ridiculed him. “He saved others, but he can’t save himself!…Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him!” (Matthew 27:42) Eventually he was even abandoned by his Father in heaven. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) he cried.

When I’m in pain, I have Christ I to go to. Jesus did not have a Christ to turn to. He had to deal with the agony of the cross on his own, without friends and, for a time, even without God. He bore the weight entirely alone.

His great love for us made Jesus willing to walk to the cross. Love allowed him to endure the torture. Even as he hung there, wracked by physical pain, loneliness and humiliation – all because of us! – he begged his heavenly Father to forgive us: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) he prayed. He went through all of this because he knew we would then have everlasting life. Because of his sacrifice, I don’t have to suffer as much as I otherwise would.

When I need to talk to someone and no one is home, or when phone lines are busy, Jesus is always there, waiting for me. When I feel I’ve been deserted, I search my Bible and pray, and Jesus hears my cries. I can pour out my heart to him, and he fully understands.

I cover myself warmly, lay my head on the pillow and sleep peacefully once more. I know that I’m taken care of.

Thank you, Jesus!