This morning our service centred around Psalms 22 and 137 and the question, "has God foresaken me?" (the answer is 'no' btw).
The sermon began with a name check of people who had hard 'dark night of the soul' type experiences:
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, John Wesley, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, John of the Cross, writer Jennifer Rees Larcombe, Rev Dr John Colwell, the prophets Elijah and Jeremiah, King Saul and possibly King David, Job and Jesus of Nazareth.
And towards the end, I included this quotation from John Colwell' book, "Why Have You Forsaken Me" (Paternoster 2009, page 99)
The cry of abandonment that Jesus cries is nothing less than our cry of abandonment: his cry is the cry of the child murdered by Herod’s soldiers; his cry is the cry of the abused slave; his cry is the cry of the woman being raped; his cry is the cry of terror from the gas chamber; his cry is the cry of despair from the one contemplating suicide; his cry is the cry of lament from the psalmist, his is the desolation of every man and woman. Every human cry of despair is unique and particular – the particularity of individual suffering is not abolished at the Cross – but every human cry of despair is echoed in his cry, he enters fully into our desolation, our sin, our pain, our abuse, our dying, our death; he becomes what we are, that we, through his entering into this desolation, might become what he is, the true humanity that is our destiny and calling.
The aim of the sermon was, essentially, to name the fact that so often we put on a 'happy Christian' mask when we are hurting or doubting or questioning or whatever, because we fear ridicule or rejection, to normalise such experiences and to offer a little bit of hope, a candle in the darkness.
Challenging stuff to reflect on, but worthwhile.
I ended with this prayer from John Colwell's book )p 75):
In a world characterised by so much pretence
It is such a relief to pray to one who honours honesty.
You know our hearts, in any case;
You know the pain we carry, the fears that oppress, the despair that engulfs;
You know the disillusionment that would mask your light and leave us in darkness.
Forgive us, dear Lord, for every attempt to hide from you.
Thank you that you are more than sufficient to handle our fears, our anger, our desolation.
Without shame we turn to you again
In the name of Jesus, the one who cried out in honest forsakenness