The story goes that a man fell off the top of a cliff. On the way down, he grabbed a tree root and hung on, but he knew the root would not hold him for long. Several times he cried out, “Is there anyone up there?” Silence. Finally a voice came to him, “This is God. I am here. I will help you — but first you have to let go of that root.” Silence. Then the man called out, “Is there anyone else up there?”
My chuckle is mixed with sorrow. Why is trusting God such a challenge? Is it ignorance of His power? Or is it too much trust in other things — like tree roots? Or my own thoughts and ideas? Or other people? Or my money? Or?
In contrast, today’s Scripture describes the cries of a man who feels as if God has dropped off a cliff. He feels alone, forsaken, unheard . . .
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” (Psalm 22:1–5)
He calls out over the edge day and night. He groans. He reminds God that He helped those people of faith who lived prior to his life and He rescued them. Why is he being ignored? Where is God and why is He deaf to his cries?
This psalm is likely what was on the mind of Jesus as He hung on the cross. It was a Jewish practice to recite it when feeling abandoned for it ends well, reminding desperate hearts that God is still there with them. All of us need something to cling to besides tree roots when in dire straits. The promises of God are anchors when the experiences of life are totally painful and we feel alone and deeply needy.
Right now, this is not my situation. Why then should I read and contemplate anything about such grief and negativity? As a younger woman, God taught me the logic of doing this. I suffered greatly with PMS for several years. My personality changed and I hated myself. My family was not too happy with me either. Then the Lord gave me an idea: take note of everything I screamed and complained about during PMS, then deal with it when the PMS was gone and I was thinking rationally. It worked. Gradually all those issues were resolved and dissolved.
It is the same with those low times of life. If I consider the promises of God for times of trouble when I’m not in trouble, then whenever loss or disaster strikes those promises are already planted in my heart. Of course I might forget them for a time or feel abandoned for a time, but the reality of His care for me inevitably comes to mind and I can let go of tree roots and terror and self-despair (self-pity too) as His reassurance calls out to me.
Tozer notes that sometimes falling off a cliff is about the Holy Spirit putting an end to self-rule. He is teaching me greater faith by testing, and His ‘expulsive power’ requires that I let go of all else that I trust. He accepted me as I was but loves me too much to leave me that way.
Lord Jesus, in Your darkest hour You entrusted Your Father even though it felt like He had forsaken You. But You knew He was still there. In the last part of Psalm 22, which You did not get to utter but certainly knew, it says:
“For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.” (Psalm 22:24)
Our human problem is not that You have abandoned us but that we are prone to trusting tree roots rather than our Creator and the Author of life.