Yesterday, our sermonette speaker talked about the issue of God forsaken, and I must admit that I found the message to be very interesting if a bit of a scripture hunt. As is sometimes the case when I listen to others talk, I tend to think about ways that a given message can be extended or what sort of reply that it needs. In the case of this message, I must admit that I had an immediate thought of doing a personal reply, but I must admit that I find the issue of things being God forsaken to require more than merely a personal reflection. There are a great deal of ironies that the issue of something or somewhere being God-forsaken, especially at this time of year, and it is worth exploring at least some of the different facets of this issue.
One of the most immediate ironies that pops up for me is that what for one person is a God-forsaken wilderness is for another person a perfect place to commune with God. Very often in the Bible (and in other religious traditions) we find that the wilderness is a very common place for people to find dramatic mystical experiences. Whether we are talking about Moses’ experience encountering God in the burning bush, or Elijah’s hearing of the still small voice, or Jesus’ encounter with Satan’s three temptations, all of these experiences happened in the wilderness, far away from others. Even in our own day and time people enjoy traveling to remote national parks or doing long hikes in creation or going to waterfalls or forests or mountains to commune with God in creation. People then write songs about the experience, like “Above The Timberline” by Five For Fighting, or write books like Bill Bryson’s “A Walk In The Woods” to express the spiritual value of such journeys.
Another one of the ironies of being God forsaken is that people worry so much about God forsaking them and often do not spend enough time thinking about the way that they forsake God. I suppose such problems are fairly natural, though. Psychologists spend a great deal of time and effort talking about projection, and even children are familiar with the concept when they say things like, “I know you are but what am I” in response to someone giving them an insult. Any psychological concept that can be mastered by small children is likely one to be very common when it comes to the affairs of humanity. Those who are the most afraid of the disloyalty of others are likely to be the most disloyal themselves, or are at least aware of the potential of their own disloyalty. Yet it is often a hard thing to be aware of such matters ourselves, largely because we want to think ourselves to be good people, and so projection comes about (whether we are dealing with God or other people) because we are simultaneously knowledgeable but not willing to be aware of what we really are.
Finally, I would like to comment one additional aspect of being God forsaken, and that is the genuine fear that people have of the abandonment of God. While Romans 8 is a go-to chapter when it comes to reflecting upon the ultimate plans for our good no matter what our current conditions are, there are some assumptions that Romans 8 makes that are not always encouraging to people who are concerned about being forsaken. For one, Romans 8 assumes that the reader is someone who has been called according to God’s plan. Yet when someone is struggling against despair, that is indeed the matter that is in dispute. The promise of providential care is dependent on something that is in doubt, and in those circumstances it does not often provide an encouragement to those who are struggling to hope at all. If people had hope that they were indeed being blessed in the future and that everything was going to work out well, they would not feel so forsaken at all to begin with. Once one feels forsaken, how can such a condition be reversed? If one needs hope to see the beneficial will that God has planned, how does one gain that hope to begin with? These are matters that keep people awake at night, to be sure.