Summary: A sermon to help those who feel abandoned by God.
One of the loneliest times we can have comes when we face a time of need without having a loving friend to talk to about it. Everyone needs at least one trusted friend in whom to confide. Elisha A. Hoffman, author and composer of more than 2,000 gospel songs, was pastor of a church in Lebanon Pennsylvania. He visited a woman who had experienced many moments of emotional pain in her life. She told Rev. Hoffman of the many burdens on her heart and concluded with the question, "Brother Hoffinan, what shall I do? What shall I do?" He replied, "You cannot do better than to take all of your sorrows to Jesus. You must tell Jesus." For a moment, the lady seemed lost in meditation. Then her eyes brightened and she exclaimed, "Yes, I must tell Jesus."
From that experience Elisha Hoffman wrote a hymn which we still sing today: "I Must Tell Jesus." The beauty of this hymn is its honesty. The Christian life is not always happiness. There are times we feel exhausted and depressed. We are at wit’s end, without resources, at lost for a way, perplexed and desperate. That is usually when we see God begin to work. But before He does anything about our situation, He wants to do something about ourselves and that is where we begin to hedge. We want God to deal with our complication; He wants to develop our character. We want Him to change our circumstances; He wants to change us first.
The Psalmist David understood this. His psalms were written like a journal. He wrote eloquently of his joy as well as his sorrow. He expressed the feelings of his heart, whether in despair or times of joy and praise.
Psalm 13 is an example of his prayer during a time of despair. Saul and his army were pursuing David and he was hidden in a cave. David also retreated into the dark cave within himself. In the dark, damp and alone, he sang his laments to the Lord.
"How long, will you forget me, 0 Lord? Forever? How long will you hide your face from me?"
David will ask "how long" two more times during this song. The repetition is his way of saying, "God, I’m talking to you. I’m trying to get through to you. Can you hear me?" David has trusted God, he has been anointed king, and he has slain the mighty Goliath by the Lord’s power. So, where is God now?
At times it may seem that God has forgotten you and left you to perish in the gloom. As you go deeper inside your own caves of despair, your soul still cries out. How long will you be in this place, how long can you exist like this? If God has forgotten you, what hope is there? Will He hide from you forever?
It is not God who forgets; we are the ones who forget. We are the ones who turn away and turn within ourselves compounding the feelings of loneliness and feelings of abandonment. Your hurt can become so debilitating that it makes you feel there is something terribly wrong with you.
As David’s song continues we get a good indication of the source of David’s fear:
"How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?"
Another translation reads, "...raise questions in my inner being." David’s doubts and fears are not so much the result of outside forces as they are of intrinsic sources. David is not as afraid of Saul’s might than he is of his own limitations. The enemy may be real, but the mind is the place where grasshoppers become giants. The fear may be more imagination than reality.
In a book by Alex Kotlowitz, There Are No Children Here, an interesting story is told of boys growing up in the inner-city of Chicago. Occasionally the boys would go to the railroad tracks to look for snakes. When the train comes by, they hide for fear the people on board the train will shoot at them. The people aboard the train duck for fear the boys will throw rocks at them. The fear for each group is real; but, the reasoning for the fear is not real.
The source of our fear many times comes from within ourselves. Guilt can come when we either have fallen in certain areas of our lives, or we’ve found it hard to believe God’s forgiveness. A bruised or broken heart is probably the most devastating pain known to mankind. When that pain, whether real or imagined, becomes too great you close yourself off from family, your friends, your church, and even God.
We want answers, but at the same time, deep inside, we are afraid of what that answer might be or that no answer exists. We need to look at what these answers arise from. Does God want us to feel despair, to think we are alone? No! God repeatedly in His Word tells us we are not alone, that, as His children, we belong to a family that will not desert us.