“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ ” (Matthew 27:45,46).
OUR CONCEPT OF INNER STRENGTH IS SUCH THAT WE ARE SOMETIMES RELUCTANT TO REVEAL THAT WE ARE HURTING. We hide our heartaches from everyone else, lest they think we are weak or that we have the wrong attitude. And sometimes even within our own selves, we are reluctant to be honest about these things.
But if we think strong people never experience anguish, that is a false notion of strength. Just as courage doesn’t mean the absence of fear, strength doesn’t mean the absence of pain. Strength is not inconsistent with anguish of spirit, nor does strength mean we have to try to keep our heartaches a secret.
Jesus’ example is instructive here. By any spiritual or emotional measure, Jesus was the strongest person who ever lived. Yet He was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus’ strength didn’t keep Him from hurting, and it didn’t keep Him from expressing His hurts. We are told that He “offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death” (Hebrews 5:7).
When we cry out in pain, however, the difficulty is to do it with the same humility and reverence that Jesus did. Agony and emptiness have a tendency to make us selfish and demanding. But those are temptations we can resist, and when we resist them, our cries of agony can be pure and sincere . . . and acceptable to God.
Anguish is simply an indication of unmet needs. When we hurt emotionally, it means there is something we deeply need that we don’t have, either because we never had it or because we had it and lost it. In heaven there will be no unmet needs, but on earth there are plenty of them. We were made for a different kind of world than the broken one that now exists, and as long as we live here, even as Christians, we will have needs that are achingly unfulfilled. As long as we cry humbly and reverently, it is not wrong to cry honestly and deeply, “How long, O Lord, how long?”
“If I ever wonder about the appropriate ‘spiritual’ response to pain and suffering, I can note how Jesus responded to his own with fear and trembling, with loud cries and tears” (Philip Yancey).