It was a Monday a few years back. I don’t remember exactly what had happened, but something had made me so furious, so disgusted with myself, that all I could do was scream.
We live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, so I ran to the top of our pasture, flung out my arms, and let out a shriek that was probably heard in six counties. My high-school self was in utter despair. I remember feeling abandoned, completely alone, utterly forsaken by God. It’s not a nice feeling. I knelt in the snow, felt it soak through my pants until I shivered uncontrollably, and sobbed my heart out. I can’t say that I felt any better, but I think it did something.
Fast forward to last weekend. I was at a women’s retreat and the speaker gave a bone-chilling talk about feeling abandoned by God. She cited numerous passages in the Old and New Testament where various people—Job, the enslaved Israelites in Egypt, Jesus on the cross—had “cried out” to God. All of these people were in complete despair. All the could do was voice their anguish aloud to God and hope that He would hear them and do something about it.
Psalm 130 begins with “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; let your ears be attentive to my pleading.” Talk about a guy with problems—David wrote one of the longest books in the Bible—the Psalms—and most of them are about being captured by enemies, ensnared in sin, and moaning and groaning for God to deliver him. And David was one of God’s right hand men! Doesn’t sound fair to me.
But all is not lost. In every case, from the book of Exodus to Lamentations to the Gospels where Jesus screams “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God always answers. He always responds. But we have to cry out to Him first.
Most Christians don’t even entertain the thought of crying out to God. They communicate to Him via rote prayers or a brief “Oh God, please help me.” They are on their best behavior whenever they speak to Him, like He’s the President of the United States or an English professor who will frown upon informal language or broken sentences.
Think to the scene in the gospels where Jesus is enduring His final agony on the cross. He’s lost almost all the blood in His body. He can barely breathe. His mother and the disciple He loves the most, John, are standing below Him, seeing everything. Where is the beloved Son of the Father? Where is the kingdom that will have no end? Where is the temple that will be built up in three days? It all seems to have ended in some kind of sick, pathetic joke. And Jesus, though He knows His Father’s ultimate plan, cannot contain His agony, His outrage, His anguish of heart. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is a scream that echoes through the centuries, piercing the heart of His mother Mary, mouthed by the endless throngs of humanity caught up in inescapable suffering: the Jews in the Holocaust, the soldiers dying in the jungles of Vietnam, the burning ruins of the World Trade Center.
But the key point here is that God responds when we cry out. He delivered the Israelites from Egypt, He restored all of Job’s possessions, He raised Jesus from the dead. When we scream for Him from the depths of our utter nothingness, He cannot help but respond, like a mother responding in love to her hungry child. But we are afraid to raise our voices. We prefer to talk to God in polite little conversations like the Lord’s Prayer or the cute little phrases we learned in Sunday School. But God wants us to cry out to Him, to scream for Him, to reach for Him from the bottom of the pit of our loneliness, our addiction, our despair.
Let’s cut the formalities when we pray. Cry out to God. Scream for God. He will hear you.