Archbishop Cottrell asks the question at the end of Chapter 5 of his Lenten 2023 book Godforsaken; ‘What things cause you horror in your life’.
This is about the feelings of the loss of the presence of God Jesus experienced as he died on the cross.
Before I even got to the questions at the end of Chapter 5, the words of Archbishop Cottrell were bringing alive within me my long forgotten childhood fears of abandonment.
Looking back, I must have been a needy child because I can still vividly remember the sheer terror of once being left with (perfectly lovely) relatives whilst my mum just popped out to the shop for something. It was terrifying for me.
Likewise, I remember being at a children’s tea party and feeling that same terrible sense of abandonment. I remember wailing ‘I want my dad’; no one could console me, and I had to be taken home in tears, much to my father’s bemusement.
These things were all terrifying for me, and thankfully I grew out of them, or should I say, learned how to trust others and cope better. But I believe we all harbour, to a greater or lesser degree, a fear of abandonment deep within us.
But for most of us, this fear would not have been as public and physically or spiritually painful as Jesus experienced as he died on the cross.
Jesus Understands our Personal Fears
What makes me feel sad is that as I cried out in fear for the presence of my mum or dad as a child, Jesus, the son of God, demonstrated himself to be no less vulnerable but also completely surprised at his loss. He did not think he would be abandoned by his father, as we don’t anticipate that either as small children growing up.
I cannot for the life of me understand why he had to be abandoned at that terrible time, though. Perhaps it was to demonstrate his understanding of our deepest fear; the pain of being abandoned.
Our Hope in Jesus
We cannot rely on our parents to nurture us forever though, and we look to other places as adults to fill the empty gaps in our lives. We often look in all the wrong places such as; in addictions of a wide variety, wrong thinking and selfish behaviour.
But it is only Jesus who can provide the hope, faith and love to address our inherent abandonment fears. Although in the Old Testament Psalms and Proverbs, we can find beautiful words that address and soothe all manner of humanity’s anxieties.
However, it is ultimately Jesus who teaches us in the Gospels how to renew our ways of living and thinking. I often ponder on how he must be the best mental health therapist ever to have lived, because as we regularly learn from him, we gradually become wiser and see the world differently.
As we become wiser, we place our faith, trust and hope in Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, and we gradually find the natural courage God originally endowed us with. This sets us free from all that binds us as we are released from our anxieties and filled with the hope that the death and resurrection of Jesus promises.
Then we finally realise that it was Jesus, who is God, who we were searching for all along to make us complete.
Archbishop Cottrell’s book ‘Godforsaken’ is available online or from your local bookshop.