This week we continue our fourth week of our “Final Words from the Cross” sermon series. Our statement to reflect upon today is “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” If we are honest, we have all had moments in our lives where we have asked God this same question. For me, it is when I was in my first year of seminary. After many conversations and much deliberation my fiancé and I decided to break up. We had been together for five years. We had planned a future together. Before I left to go to Duke Divinity School he proposed in a grand gesture to show his love for me.
You see I was on a certain trajectory. I graduated college, I was to finish seminary and then get married to my high school sweetheart. Things were not supposed to happen this way…especially not to me. Although we both made the decision together to end our relationship so we could both move forward in other areas of our life, I was crushed. He was my first true love and my best friend. What was I supposed to do now? I felt like life as I knew it was over.
I found myself in a new state and new place my first year of seminary and coming in I did not know anyone. My first semester I had spent so much time going back and forth from Duke to Tech that I had not tried to make new friends so I did not have a support system.
To make matters worse, I had shared about my breakup in my required Duke covenant group and the leader quickly moved on to the next person, not stopping to pray for me, not seeming to acknowledge the depth of my pain or this important life event. I had great family and friends from back home, but I felt alone. I was also angry. I thought “God, I finally have surrendered my life to you. I am here. I am in seminary on my way to being a pastor. Why now? Why could I not have this one thing and be happy? Do I really have to sacrifice everything I care about for you?” I was in a dark place and uttered these same words of Jesus Christ.
We all have experiences in life that lead us to this place. We live in a broken world where there is pain and suffering. We lose the people we love. Life is not fair. Others always seem to be able to get ahead while we feel like we are working just as hard or even harder. It is comforting for us today to know that Jesus also knew what it felt like for everything to go wrong. Jesus knew what it felt like to feel like he had been abandoned by God.
Now, we know that God was with Christ, because Jesus was the Son of God, a person of the Trinity who was never separated from God. Even though Christ felt abandoned by God, God was still with him.
We are called to be a light to those who are in darkness, to those who utter these same words of Christ. God has blessed me with amazing family and friends who were there for me in the difficult moments of life. In seminary right after my breakup God sent me a friend named Ashley. She journeyed with me through my grief and I helped her with some of hers as well. We are all dealing with something aren’t we?
Ashley and I developed a beautiful friendship that continues today. We have seen each other continue to live out the calling that God has placed on our lives. Also, we have both since been married and had our first children and we are both now UMC pastors me in Virginia and her in Texas.
When we are going through difficult things in life, it is sometimes hard for us to look toward the future with hope, but time after time I see that God’s plan for my life was better than any plan I ever could have made. I wish I could have believed that in the dark moments of my life, so I feel I am charged with sharing this same message of Christ with others.
The good news for our lives today is that God has not abandoned us, God is with us, and God is offering us a future with hope.
So friends take a moment to be there for those who need it the most and if you are struggling you are not alone, God has not abandoned you and I am here to listen.
Prayer: God, we thank you that even in our darkest moments, you have not abandoned us. We take comfort that you know our pain, you know our grief, and your son Jesus died our death, and rose so that we can always have hope for tomorrow. May we not take a single moment for granted and sacrifice our time to help those the most in need of your love and grace. Amen.
Left: Me and Ashley at my wedding where she was a liturgist.
Top Right: Taken after Broadway Revue 2013, where Ashley came back to support me as Co-Director. Middle: Ashley preaching at her church. Bottom right: Me preaching at my last appointment.