Looking to Jesus When Feeling Abandoned

Everything was going so well for David for so long—Goliath, worship leader for the king, warrior, king's cabinet, king’s son-in-law and then everything fell apart!

Christ is our Refuge—but not if we can’t see His open arms.

Sometimes, in the lives of some believers, there comes a point so low that we actually feel that everyone—even God, has abandoned us. That is where we find David in Psalm 13.

In Psalm 13 we will see that Christ can’t be our refuge if we don’t hear His invitation to flee to Him. Christ can’t be our refuge if we don’t even remember He is there. And sometimes we have to hit bottom, or go through dark waters, or face incredible convulsions in our lives to see Him—even though He’s been there all the time. 

I learned that lesson deeply at 27,000 feet. Flying home a couple of years ago from LA gave me an insight I’ll never forget. Having flown enough to have heard the safety lecture at the preflight prep time dozens of times, I usually am reading and ignore it all, never thinking about anything other than what I need to do before we land. 

This particular flight was non-eventful. I had an empty seat beside me that became my desk and as the world slowly drifted by out the window I worked. After a bit, clouds began to darken the sky and I had to turn on the light to see—but I just kept studying. Then a reminder to fasten seatbelts was ordinary and common.

But all of a sudden I started listening when the plane did the first roller coaster move. Then I paid attention. Soon we were dropping, and then going straight up like an elevator. Then a real hard jolt knocked open a few overhead compartments and things fell out, and there were some scattered cries of fear. 

From that moment on all I thought about was—who exactly was up front flying this plane? How much experience do they have? How skilled are they in thunderstorm management? What tremendous lesson did I learn about flying? We don’t pay much attention to it if all goes smoothly.

Who ever even thinks about the pilot until the weather gets rough? Until the world around us jolts, jumps, rocks and swerves—then all of a sudden that is all we think about. Who is steering this careening machine? Suddenly we realize how important the pilot really is, and that our life is in their hands.

The same is true in life. The fewer bumps, the more we ignore the pilot. The smoother the ride, the more we forget the One who holds our life in His hands. When the rough family times come, the roller coaster ride of our emotions, the crash of our finances, or the sudden plummet of our health—then we think about the pilot.

As we continue in our Christ Our Refuge Series, we are looking at loneliness. We are tracking David’s life recorded in the Scriptures and matching up the Psalms he wrote from each event. This allows us to see all the ways he experienced loneliness and how the Lord rescued him from all his troubles.

We will look at one of David’s deepest trials. We are past the terrible situation in Gath before Achish the king that we saw last time in Psalm 34. Remember how David was so alone and afraid that he acted crazy? After the Lord rescued him from Gath, David flees to the wilderness and goes to live in a cave.

During this cave experience—David goes through a time of feeling abandoned by God. But in that dark hour he finds hope. Why? Because as we keep seeing in God's Word —troubles, trials, tests, and temptations always pushed David towards the Lord. God was his choice, God was his habit, God was his desire because—David supremely loved the Lord with all his heart. These dark times just surfaced the reality that down deep in his soul—David had entrusted his life to the Lord.

That is exactly the way life was for David—the more his life was shaken, the more he thought about and entrusted his life to the Lord. The Psalms we open this morning are David’s confessions about who was flying his plane through the turbulent and stormy skies of his life—even when he felt abandoned he found that God was still there flying him through life.

As you turn to Psalm 13, think about feelings of abandonment. As a pastor, biblical counselor, and a follower of Christ for over forty years—I am convinced that feelings of abandonment are very common even among believers.

Listen again to David’s opening words in Psalm 13:1-2

“1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me.

2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”

  • What are some common causes of cave times, feelings of being abandoned by others and even God? Here are just a few doorways that can lead us to stand in David’s shoes over and over again through life.
  • Cave times may start sometimes through a protracted illness that just seems to never end, and strength never comes, and future plans fade and so does hope.
  • Another doorway to a cave is a sudden loss of income and job, then financial needs that become tangled, growing and seemingly hopeless.
  • Other doorways to cave times can be through our marriages and families. Wayward children cause immeasurable pain to believing parents, as does an alcoholic spouse, or unsaved family members.
  • Our work may open us to the dark times through a demanding and unreasonable boss, or a grueling and unending schedule, or a jealous, spiteful, and injurious co-worker.

Usually these times make us feel that no one really cares about us, then a feeling of being abandoned by others, then starts the spiral downward into thinking that God has also abandoned us.

As we examine Psalm 13 closely, David takes us through his depths. David feels abandoned—so abandoned that he cries out as if he is not going to make it.

Amazingly there is little said or written in Christian literature about helping believers who feel abandoned by God. Even the classic work by D. Martin Lloyd Jones called Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures doesn’t even cover this topic.[1]

"Why do you suppose this is?  I think it is because we have been taught that Christians are not to experience such things, that we are only to have “life more abundantly” or to “live victoriously.”    But if any of us should admit to opposite feelings, many of our friends would look askance at us, shake their heads, and wonder whether we are Christians.  Isn’t that true?  Isn’t that the chief reason why you do not talk to other Christians about this or about many other problems?”

Well, thankfully for all of us who have ever struggled—David talks. Aren’t we glad that a spiritual giant like David doesn’t cover up his struggles and hide his feelings when they are bad. He doesn’t mind being thought weak, failing, or troubled. He just cries out.

This is David the Psalmist, David the spiritual giant, David the king God chose, David the man God says is after His own heart—and that David is unashamed to bare his dark struggles of the soul for all to see.

In the next devotional we will watch him in Psalm 13 as he bares his soul at his deepest, darkest hour of loneliness—when even God seems far away!

 

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