"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Reflection by Kenneth L. Samuel
People who contend daily for the integrity of their faith understand, better than anyone else, that faith can never be completely separated from moments of deep, dark, desperate despair. No one is better at expressing hopelessness than the one who has lost hope. No one can describe the darkness like the one who once walked in the light.
The prophet Jeremiah had his moment, when after being ridiculed by a scornful crowd for prophesying God's word, he uttered in complete disgust: "I will not make mention of him (the Lord), nor speak anymore his name." The wife of Job had her moment, when after losing all seven of her children and all her property to marauding bandits and a devastating tornado, she turned to her debilitated husband and urged him to "curse God and die." And Jesus certainly had his moment when, while dying the disgraceful death of a criminal upon an old rugged cross, he echoed the dismal refrain of the tragic Psalmist: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Recurring moments of doubt and despair occur often in lives plagued with profound torment and unshakable melancholy. If Abraham Lincoln were alive today, many of his biographers suspect that he would be diagnosed as being bipolar. Lincoln suffered more than one emotional breakdown, and while some of his contemporaries characterized him as quite jovial, others described him as being one of the most depressed persons they had ever seen. Martin Luther King, Jr. displayed signs of manic depression, including long lapses of despondency and attempted suicide in his younger years. Mother Teresa, a virtual saint in the minds of many, was nevertheless a portrait of self-contradiction, as her letter to a spiritual confidant reveals: "Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear."
All of us have our moments . . . and more than a few of us live with chronic depression. But beyond our hopelessness, there is still a great Providence. Despair empties us, but the record shows that God does God's best work with empty vessels. A melancholic Lincoln saved a divided nation from ruin. A depressed King took us to the mountain top of racial and economic justice. A doubt-ridden Mother Teresa brought bread and life to countless numbers of the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. And the desperate, despairing Jesus has indeed become the center of our temporal and eternal hope.
Dear God, in all of my joyful delights and deep-seated depressions; in all of my faltering faithfulness and meandering mood swings; in all of my daylight and in all of my darkness . . . Use me. Amen.