Abandoned and Forgotten
"Several years ago Shiite Muslims in the Middle East held American Tom Sutherland captive for four years. Much of his time was spent in solitary confinement. In his speech following his release he asked an unforgettable question, 'Do you know what it's like to be in prison? To be held hostage? To be held a captive? It's very lonely. You worry that people will forget you. I felt abandoned. I didn't think anybody even knew I was in prison.'
"During his imprisonment, Tom could hear a radio that the guards had. It was tuned into the BBC.... Every day Tom listened intently to the news, hoping and praying that he would hear the newscaster talk about him and tell the story of his imprisonment and his innocence. But he never heard his name mentioned, so he assumed that nobody at home even knew he was being held hostage.
"Finally, after four years of captivity, Southerland was released. The government flew Jean, his wife, to the area so they could be reunited. They were so excited to see each other. A few days later, they flew home to San Francisco. As they were getting off the plane, Tom was amazed to see all the lights, television cameras, reporters, people holding signs, and a huge crowd. Tom turned to his wife and said, 'Jean, look at all these people. There must be a celebrity on the plane with us. See if you can spot who it is.' Jean replied, 'Honey, they are all here for you! This is all for you!'
"When his wife told him that, Tom Southerland started crying and couldn't stop. He sobbed like a little boy. He couldn't believe it. He said, 'I thought everybody had forgotten me. I didn't think anybody knew I was in captivity. I felt completely abandoned. I didn't think anybody cared. Thank God I was wrong.'"1
I felt completely abandoned.
I didn't think anybody cared.
Without having been in the same situation, one could never fully identify with Tom. Perhaps to a lesser degree many of us could in that there have been times when we felt all alone, unloved, that nobody cared, and that we wouldn't even be missed if we died. And how devastating it must feel for little children who have been abandoned—many of whom grow up to become delinquents and/or criminals. And how desolate for adults who have been abandoned by their spouse!
Abandonment is one of the most intense forms of human suffering. For many it is so intensely painful that they end their life in suicide. Tragically, suicide is not the end of life—it is just the end of life on earth. This is because God has assured us that our spirit lives forever either with God in eternal life, or apart from God in eternal punishment.2
And can you even begin to imagine the intense suffering of Jesus at that first Easter time 2,000 years ago when he experienced the ultimate abandonment—abandonment by God? In his intense agony on the cross he cried out, "My God, my God, why have your forsaken me."3
And why was Jesus abandoned by God? It was because he had taken on himself the sin of the world—all the sins of mankind. In this condition he had separated himself from God and was in the place of abandonment by God. Jesus did this for you and for me as he was paying the death penalty that was justly ours. Only when that penalty was fully paid, and Jesus rose again was he out of the place of abandonment and back in the presence of God.
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