“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
I think many (including ourselves) have heard and received from suffering people the question, “Why?” Why this hardship? Why this suffering? Why my mom, dad, son, daughter? Why now? Why me?
The answer to this deep existential question is a hard one. Some answer it by avoiding the question completely and redirecting. Others come at it and respond back, “Why not? We should not be surprised. We live in a sinful, broken world!” Some, for theological reasons, will default to God’s sovereignty and try to comfort them with verses like Romans 8:28.
From my experience, people who ask the “why” question are coming from a place of deep pain, anguish, confusion, and suffering. Yes, individuals would like answers but ultimately they need to be heard and identified with. Suffering people need the space to cry and grieve. I think sometimes the “why” question activates in us a sense of insecurity or fear that we have to respond to the suffering person, lest they drown in their pain or sorrow and alone. And we feel we have to rescue them!
BUT let us remember we are not the first people to cry out why? There is Jesus Christ, the Son of God who cried out, “My God, My God, WHY have you forsaken me.” (emphasis mine) This was raw and from a place of pain. Jesus was not just quoting Psalm 22:1. Jesus, the perfect, pure, spotless Son of God for the first time in history and eternity was separated from His Father. Why? For our sin. For YOU! For our salvation. For our hope. For our comfort and peace. For Jesus voluntarily gave himself and became sin for us so that we might be His sons and daughters whose lives can never be taken away.
I believe Jesus’ cry of why 2,000 years ago identifies and represents all the whys of the world including all that we will hear today, this week, and for the rest of our lives. When we cry out our whys in life as Christians, we are not alone. Jesus, who is our substitute, cries our whys with us and feels our griefs.
“Jesus was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Is. 53:3)
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (Is. 53:4)
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief?” (Is. 53:10)
So the next time we hear others and ourselves ask the why in suffering, we don’t have to answer from a place of restlessness, but from a place of confidence and hope because Jesus draws near and identifies with our whys. We can give ourselves and others space to just be in the presence of Jesus.
Grace to you,
James Santos, M.Div.
Pastoral Care and Grief Counseling