I’m not sure if this is just human nature or if it’s been indoctrinated into me by my culture: When things don’t go well, I’m tempted to think God hates me. When a series of unfortunate events unfold, I feel like God is out to get me. When I get lost, then get a speeding ticket, and then get chastised for being late, I’m having what my son would say is a no good, very bad day. And, I can’t help feeling like God is out to get me.
One theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, sums up this experience of feeling cursed by God as a feeling of God-forsakenness. When life seems to repeatedly turn out bad, we inevitably wonder where God is in all of our pain. Whether it’s the torment of toddlers who refuse to listen to our requests, the rejection of a long-time girlfriend, or the extreme suffering that comes from poverty, it can be hard to fight the feeling of forsakenness.
But Moltmann says that it is in our God-forsakenness that we can meet with God. If we can recognize that in Christ’s death on the cross, God incarnate was himself God-forsaken, then we can re-orient our vision of who God is and how he relates to us in our moments of God-forsakenness. He says this is the very essence and identity of Christianity. He writes:
Christian identity can be understood only as an act of identification with the crucified Christ, to the extent to which one has accepted the proclamation that in him God has identified himself with the godless and those abandoned by God, to whom one belongs oneself.
The Crucified God, pg. 19
Christ was the ultimate God-forsaken person. He was abandoned by God despite the perfect obedience of his life. This means that God has intimately identified with you and me in our God-forsakeness, and we can choose to identify with Christ in his God-forsakenness in a sort of “double process of identification.” Despite the occasional deep feeling of divine betrayal, God doesn’t hate us. He loves us, and his presence is with us. In our moments of feeling forsaken, we know that we have not been abandoned. Rather, it is in these times that we share our most intimate connection to Christ. When we embrace God-with-us in these dark times, we embrace Christ as the God-forsaken-one just as God embraces us.