King David opens the 22nd psalm with a desperate cry:
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?Psalm 22:1
By the end of the psalm, he reaffirms his conviction that God doesn’t forget His children, but at first, we just hear his poignant cry of anguish.
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.Psalm 22:2
This reminds me of Joseph Smith’s plea from Liberty Jail, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1). Sometimes, in spite of our faith in God and our confidence that He hasn’t forgotten us, we still feel lonely, and we wonder how long we will have to endure our present circumstances.
David goes on to describe the taunts of his enemies, intended to weaken his faith in God:
All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.Psalm 22:7-8
About 700 years later, as Jesus hung on the cross, people mocked Him in a similar way: “He trusted in God;” they said, “let him deliver him now” (Matthew 27:43). In response, Jesus quoted the first part of that psalm:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?Matthew 27:46
Of course Jesus knew that His Father hadn’t permanently abandoned Him, and of course He knew why it was necessary. And of course, He had the power to end the suffering immediately if He wanted to. But in that moment, the words of David perfectly expressed the agony and the loneliness He felt.
Shortly after, during His post-mortal ministry on the American continent, He quoted the following promise from Isaiah:
For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.3 Nephi 22:7-8, see also Isaiah 54:7-8
Ironically, Jesus’ loneliest moment serves as evidence that He will never abandon us. The prophet Isaiah quoted Zion as saying, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.” In response, the Lord says, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16, 1 Nephi 21:16).
Today, I will remember that God will not abandon me. The Savior knows the feeling of being left to suffer alone, and He knows that those experiences are temporary. As David testified, God “hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from [us]; but when [we] cried unto him, he heard” (Psalm 22:24).