Posted by: ritagone | March 29, 2017

“Why have you forsaken me?”

Recently our church did a weekly Lent devotional chapel series each morning at 7 a.m. for half an hour, and I was asked to lead one of the devotional times. Each week a different saying of Jesus on the cross was examined, and mine was Matthew 27:46, dealing with Rejection. I have been asked by a few people who couldn’t make it to the chapel if I would repeat it here, so I was glad to do so.






Matthew 27:46

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?”





       We ask:

Why did you betray me?

Why did you hurt me?

Why did you leave me?

Why did you do that to me?

“The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.” It comes from people you love, you trust, rejection from where you least expected it.

I have never been betrayed or rejected in a significant way. I have loved ones who have been, and maybe living with someone or knowing someone you love who has been damaged like this is in some ways more difficult than being betrayed or rejected yourself, because it leaves its mark on those people, and then you have to deal with that. I don’t know. It’s hard to say. And it’s not a contest worth winning either way.

Maybe you have been betrayed or rejected, and you’re sitting here hurt or hurting this morning. Maybe the rejection was years ago, but it still feels fresh, like it just happened. Or maybe it did just happen.

Betrayal, medical science tells us, uses the same pathways to the brain as pain does. If you have been betrayed and rejected, then, it’s like a pain that never seems to leave you, that is constant. You may adjust to it, but you never seem to forget it, you never stop feeling it. That’s what the scientists say who study this kind of thing.

I tried to think of the worst kind of rejection, even beyond a cheating spouse, or a friend damaging you, or a business partnership gone wrong. What could even come close to what Jesus felt on the cross that day as He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” But nothing comes close to that.

But I did remember a 60 Minutes segment over a year old that was so powerful that I still have it on my DVR, a recording that I just can’t make myself delete or erase. In Harlem, New York City, a black woman producer and her husband put together a musical show called “Alive: 55 Plus and Kickin,’” a bunch of men and women with stories to go with the songs they wanted to sing at the show. You can actually Google Alive 55 together with 60 Minutes and find out much more about this episode, this segment, and believe me, it’s well worth it. The stories they told were unbelievable: long prison terms, alcoholism, drug addiction, loss of an adult child from cancer. And then there was a man named Matthew Burke, an ex-con who had committed violent crimes, who had discovered while going through some paperwork that he had been abandoned at two and a half weeks old On the paperwork he found it said: “mother: unknown, father: unknown, infant left in a hallway. No name, simply Abandoned 2360.” That was his beginning in life. A number.

He spent his youth and middle age in the prison system, always a number. He was named Matthew Burke by a priest in the first of many foster homes he lived in as a child. This man had never experienced unconditional love, or any kind of love, for that matter. The rejection he experienced from his mother, his father, overwhelmed and shaped his young life and his youth. My heart absolutely broke listening to him talk about that rejection as an abandoned infant. He has felt it from his childhood all the way through to that interview with Leslie Stahl as a man in his 60’s.

I wanted him to know that Jesus Christ was rejected beyond what he or any of us can even imagine in our worst nightmares: rejected on the cross by God the Father for every sin that every human being has ever committed! Can you grasp that? To be honest, I can’t. If Matthew Burke’s whole life of crime and depression could be based on the emotionally damaging reality that his parents – especially his mother – didn’t love him enough to even name him or to keep him, what in the world must the rejection be like that Jesus felt on the cross? We cannot even begin to know it or understand it because He’s the only one who has ever or will ever experience its like.

So there are levels of rejection, to be sure. Getting turned down by a publisher for a short story is not the same as having someone in a romantic relationship break your heart. Those experiences of rejection both hurt, but truly not in the same way or for the same length of time.

Jesus Christ is the only one whose rejection was so powerful that we can’t even fathom it or get inside of it.

And the great lesson of Jesus’ rejection is this: if we are being rejected, if we have been rejected, He knows. He truly understands. There is no rejection that Jesus has not died for, has not given His life on the cross to make amends for, to rescue us from…if we will just ask for it. Isaiah 53:5 tells us: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” The pronouns here are all-important, aren’t they?

So when Jesus uttered that profound question: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” I think the answer is: He had forsaken Jesus for me, Rita Warren, and for you, and for you, and you, and you, for each one of you reading this today. Jesus knew that, obviously. It was just so overwhelming in that moment that He could do nothing but ask that profound question of His Father.

What a gift! That we should never be forsaken and rejected again by God because Jesus on the cross was forsaken and rejected by God for us. That rejection should be turned into rejoicing!

When my first grandchild, Margaret, or Meg, as we call her, was born almost 17 years ago, I used to hold her and sing to her a song from “Sweeney Todd,” the Stephen Sondheim musical, called “Not While I’m Around.” I’m not a great singer, but the lyrics of this song really touched my heart as a first-time grandparent: “No one’s gonna harm you, not while I’m around.” I wanted so badly to protect that child, as I had wanted to protect her mother decades earlier. But of course that’s impossible, isn’t it? We can’t as humans really protect anyone – our loved ones or ourselves – from rejection or harm – as much as we’d like to do so. And ultimately every person experiences some kind of rejection; it’s what happens to us as we live life.

I think a great solace for rejection is found in Psalm 62; it’s only 12 verses, so let me close by reading it to you:

“My soul finds rest in God alone;

my salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation;

He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

How long will you assault a man?

Would all of you throw him down –

This leaning wall, this tottering fence?

They fully intend to topple him

From his lofty place;

They take delight in lies.

With their mouths they bless,

But in their hearts they curse.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;

My hope comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation;

He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God;

He is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people;

Pour out your hearts to him,

For God is our refuge.

Lowborn men are but a breath,

The highborn are but a lie;

If we weighed on a balance, they are nothing;

Together they are only a breath.

Do not trust in extortion

Or take pride in stolen goods;

Though your riches increase,

Do not set your heart on them.

One thing God has spoken,

Two things have I heard:

That you, O God, are strong,

       And that you, O Lord, are loving.

12Surely you will reward each person

According to what he has done.”


If rejection and betrayal weigh on your heart, might I suggest that you make Psalm 62 a part of your daily life? Read it out loud every morning before you start your day, or at the end of your day, and let it speak to your soul. I promise you that the sting of rejection will lessen as you realize that God your Father, who is strong and who is loving, as this psalm tells us, is in your life and is your rock and your salvation.

Let your soul find rest in God alone.







  1. This touched my heart! Thank you!💕

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Rita, you should write a daily devotional book. You can interpret scripture in such a personal, meaningful way.

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