By this point, pretty much everyone at STM knows that I am writing a paper on church bankruptcy. I’ve been thinking about it, talking about it, reading about it and writing about it for nearly two years now. The more I put into it, the more it becomes a vessel of my self-worth. What if, after all this time, all this thought, all this harassing of friends and family, my thesis falls flat? What if there isn’t anything important to say about this topic? Or worse, what if the thing to say is so important that I can’t possibly do it justice?
Mired in my doubts, I stare at a stubbornly blank word document. I do not understand why it is so hard when I care so much. The silence in my head echoes until the only words that come are the age-old cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And then I smile ruefully, knowing in an instant that my paper problems never merit such a question. I think of the freedom fighters in Ukraine, the innocent on death row and the abuse victims whose demands for justice animate my entire thesis. That’s what it means to be forsaken. They are the ones who understand what it means to be abandoned by God.
But then Isaiah tells us no—not even then, not even there, can we despair of God’s love for us. The Lord does not forsake and the Lord does not forget. But we do. We forsake God, we forget God. We forget that we are loved, that we are seen, that we are heard, that we are called to rejoice with the Lord whose creation we share.
And ironically, in forgetting, we forsake ourselves. Too often, we cannot hear God’s call over the din of our own doubts and fears. When the Lord comes to set the prisoners free, how many will find that the bars that held them back were of their own making? When the Lord brings light into the darkness, how many will find a world so much more wonderful than they dared to hope?
We aren’t free, not yet, and we don’t see, not yet. But simply knowing that the day will come gives us strength to move forward in hope. And that is good—or at least, like my paper, good enough—for now.