Revive Our Hearts Podcast

When You Feel Alone

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says most people go through some lonely valleys.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I believe God at times will let us be in a place where we feel there is no one else to help so that we will turn to the one who can help—the only one who can help.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, April 4. 

When the people you love the most can’t help you, it’s a very lonely feeling. Nancy prepares you for times like this continuing in the series, Psalm of the Cross.

Nancy: We’re in the middle of a week for us as Christians is when we commemorate the events that are most central and crucial to our Christian faith. We celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, and that’s certainly an important, very important event when God took on human flesh, the incarnation we call that, became a man. But all of that was to point toward what we celebrate this week.

The fact that Jesus was born is significant, very significant, but if He had just lived, and if we didn’t have the cross and the resurrection, we would have no faith, no faith worth having. We would have no true faith. We would have no hope of eternal life.

So in the midst of whatever else you have going on in your week, I hope that you’re taking time to ponder the cross, to fix your eyes on Christ, to consider what it is He has done for us, and to grieve what our sin did to Him; but then also to rejoice in the life we have as a result of His death and His endless life now.

I had other intentions of what I was planning to teach this week, and yet a few days ago I just felt like the Lord put it on my heart to go to Psalm 22. I’ve never taught Psalm 22 before. Several months ago the Lord used this passage in just my own personal quiet time, devotional time, to speak to me in a fresh way and to give me some encouragement about facing challenges and doing that in light of what Christ has done for us. Each time I read it I see new things, new insights, new revelation of Christ as we see Him in this Old Testament, prophetic, messianic psalm.

Now, we’ve said that the psalm divides into two sections. We’re still in the first section which is that anguished cry of the Lord Jesus, the suffering servant, the one who is bearing our sin on the cross, who has become sin for us. We saw in the first two verses as He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” that the most excruciating pain He is enduring is the spiritual suffering, the separation from His Father. Because He is the sin bearer, God has had to turn His back on His precious Son.

Then we’ve looked at the prayers He offered up, the fact that He understood that God is holy, and that’s why He has to forsake sin. “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil,” the Scripture says. Jesus understands that, and yet He continues to cry out and express the extent of what He is suffering.

We looked at the psychological suffering that He endured, the scorn, the ridicule, the taunting, the jeering from those who were around the cross, but also the way that any time we love Christ less than in a way that is worthy of Him, we cause suffering. We add to the suffering that He experienced there on the cross. That was significant.

Then we come today to verses 9 and 10, still in this first half, where He’s crying out to the Lord in earnest prayers and supplications. We’ve said it appears that Christ was actually meditating on this psalm, perhaps others like it, as He was dying there on the cross. Perhaps He even recited this entire psalm from start to finish as He was there on the cross.

Now, before I pick up on verse 9, let me just back up to verse 4 for a moment. In verses 4 and 5 we saw that Jesus on the cross rehearsed God’s faithfulness to others.

In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

Now, when we come to verses 9 and 10, we see that the psalmist again looks back, but this time he’s looking not to the experience that others have had but to his own personal experience. He has experienced God’s faithfulness, and this is the psalmist giving a testimony, Jesus giving a testimony of God’s personal lifelong care.

We’ve said that in times of stress and struggle and pressure and problems, it’s helpful to go back and rehearse what God has done for others; but it’s also helpful to go back and rehearse what God has done for us.

I found myself, even within the last few weeks, as I was wrestling with some things, just going back and thanking the Lord for how He has been faithful to me. That personal testimony and experience—it’s what gives us courage and faith today that the same God who was faithful to us back then will be faithful to us today.

By the way, that’s one of the great things about journaling. I don’t do it as faithfully as I would like, but when I have journaled God’s goodness and works in my life over the years, it’s a great joy to go back to those and to rehearse what God has done.

That’s what we hear in Psalm 22, verses 9 and 10:

You are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb, you have been my God.

Now, prophetically speaking, if this is a messianic psalm, which it is, Jesus is reflecting back on His miraculous birth as an infant, the virgin birth. No one was ever born the way that Jesus was, the son of the virgin, and the Son of God. But not only His miraculous birth, but how in His earliest years as an infant, He was preserved from Herod’s wrath. “On you was I cast from my birth" (v. 10). "You have preserved me; you have been my God from the time I was born.”

Jesus is saying, in essence, “Father, I have always trusted You, and You have never failed Me. You have always proved Yourself faithful. I have trusted You from My earliest years. There’s no way You can fail Me now. How could You fail Me now?”

What a great thing for us to look back and say, “Lord, from my earliest years, from the time I came to know you,” and even before we came to know Christ, we can look back and see His providential presence in our lives and His provision and His protection and how He has orchestrated the events of our lives to lead us to Christ and then to preserve us and to keep us in Christ.

So when you get to this time of darkness, and remember that Jesus is hanging on the cross now in pitch black darkness in the middle of the day. When you get to that day when everything around you is pitch black dark, look back. Rehearse the faithfulness and the goodness of God. Say, “Lord, remember when I trusted You here, and You did this, and I trusted You then, and You did that?” That will enable you to praise Him and trust Him in the present.

Now, verse 11 and following, He again is praying earnestly on the ground and on the basis of God’s past faithfulness. Verse 11, he says, “Be not far from me.” Remember in verse 1 He said, “Why are you so far?” This thing of being separated from God was a big deal to Jesus. “Why are you so far from me?”

Now in verse 11, He says, “Be not far from me, for trouble is near.” You seem far, you have separated yourself from me, but trouble is right here at hand, “and there is none to help.” Jesus is saying in effect, “I’ve always had to trust You from birth. I’m no less dependent on You now. I need You to come and help Me. There’s no one else who can help Me. You’re far from Me, but trouble is near. I need You to come and help Me.”

It’s a cry of desperation, and it strikes me that the greatest distress that Jesus could think of was that God would not be near Him, that God would forsake Him. His greatest desire in time of trouble was that God would be near. That was His highest good.

It reminds me of that passage in Psalm 73: 27-28, “Behold, those who are far from you shall perish.” Jesus was willing to be far from God for this moment so we would not have to perish.

Those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God [or as another translation says, “the nearness of God is my good.”]

Listen, when you’re in distress, you’re in trouble, you’re in peril, you’re in darkness, what is it that you cry out for? Do you cry out just for temporary relief from your pain? Do you cry out just for the gifts God can give you? Or do you find yourself crying out just for God Himself? The psalmist said, “The nearness of God is my good.”

You can have every other good gift on the face of the earth, but if you’re not near to God, you’re miserable. If God is near, then you can lose the dearest things you cherish on this earth, and you can be content because the nearness of God is our greatest good. Our greatest distress should be the thought that we would not be walking near to God.

Now thank the Lord again. Because Jesus was willing to be separated from His Father, we never have to be. We have promises like the one in Psalm 46 that says, “God is a very present help in trouble.” He is near. He’s near to those who cry to Him. To those who cry out to Him with a broken and a contrite heart, He is near.

But Jesus cries out from the cross, and He says, “There is none to help.” His disciples had forsaken Him. They had fled. He was friendless. He was alone, and He’s saying, “There is nowhere else I can turn for help.”

There may be times that you feel that there is no one there who can enter into your pain who can meet your need. There’s no husband, there’s no parent, there’s no son or daughter, there’s no friend who can really enter into your situation and help you. I believe God at times will let us be in a place where we feel there is no one else to help so that we will turn to the One who can help—the only one who can help.

Jesus was at this place where no one else could or would help Him, and so He turned to the only One who could deliver. He cried out to Him in His point of greatest need.

Now, verses 12-18, he describes the trouble that is near. This is an honest, desperate cry of someone who is in great distress. He says,

Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. (vv. 12-13)

Here’s a picture of a weak, defenseless creature that is surrounded by strong creatures, many ganging up on the one who can’t defend himself, powerful ones who are encircling him. I think that’s a picture here at the cross of the priests, the scribes, the Pharisees, the Roman rulers, the soldiers—all these powerful bulls. Remember, Jesus said, “I am a worm and no man” (v. 6). What chance does a worm have against all these powerful bulls and the ravening and roaring lion?

In just a moment he’s going to talk about dogs encompassing him. All these wild beasts, so to speak, that are surrounding him—powerful ones. He’s outnumbered, and he has no hope and no help apart from God—the roaring lion, perhaps, a picture of Satan who inspires the enemies of God and of God’s people.

Now we’ve seen earlier the spiritual torment that Jesus endured as He was separated from His Father. We’ve seen the psychological suffering as people mocked Him and scorned Him and ridiculed Him. Now in verses 14-17, we come to an amazing description of the physical suffering that Jesus endured. This was written a thousand years before these events took place, and, as we’ve said earlier, hundreds of years before crucifixion was even used as a method of execution.

Now, keep in mind:

  • Jesus has already been through this trial, this mock trial.
  • He’s been through a sleepless night.
  • He’s been through cruel scourging to the point of death; severe loss of blood.
  • He’s carried a hundred-plus pound cross beam toward Calvary until He stumbled and fell under the weight of it, and the beam was given to Simon to carry.
  • He’s already battered, bruised, bleeding. He’s exhausted. He’s in extreme weakness. 
  • Then He’s placed on that cross, spikes driven through His wrists and His feet; the muscles of His body tearing in excruciating pain, and hung on that cross to die.

You’ve read and heard, no doubt, descriptions of crucifixions. Some of the things I’ve read in just researching this passage remind us that it’s the most painful form of execution ever invented. The words used to describe it are: prolonged; agonizing; it’s a gruesome death. It’s where we get the word excruciating—cross—out of the cross. It’s a humiliating, shameful, disgraceful way to die.

It was a method of death that was reserved for slaves and rebels and highly dangerous, despised criminals.

The goal of crucifixion was to mutilate and dishonor the body of the condemned. The condemned would be stripped of all clothing, except sometimes in Jewish crucifixions, for the wearing of just a simple, linen loin cloth. It was the most shameful death imaginable.

Now, in light of what Jesus has been through, and leading up to this moment and what He’s enduring on the cross, listen to these verses, beginning in verse 14:

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. (vv. 14-15)

Now as we read these words, it’s hard for us to even imagine what it must have been like to experience this ordeal and to speak from the cross. We know that those who were crucified died generally by asphyxiation, by struggling to breathe, and ultimately by cardiac arrest as they would push up and down trying to breathe but with the nails pulling their limbs, making it difficult for them to breathe.

I was just able to read those words aloud, but nobody who was being crucified could have said the words as easily as I just did. For Jesus to say those words from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and the six other sentences that He said in those last moments, would have taken every last ounce of energy to pull Himself up with enough breath to just gasp out those words.

So the person saying this, this is not a clinical description. This is an excruciating, agonizing, shameful death, and somebody who is experiencing that is saying these words.

It’s a description of what Jesus experienced—the extreme dehydration; bones dislocated as He was stretched out on that cross; intense pain. “Heart melted like wax” is a picture of the cardio-respiratory failure that usually resulted in the death of crucified criminals.

As you think of His heart being melted like wax, you think in the spiritual sense of how Jesus was enduring the heat of God’s intense wrath against sin and sinners and the fact that Jesus ultimately died of a broken heart, not just physically, but spiritually.

He talks about a potsherd, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd,” a piece of pottery that’s baked in the fire, and there’s no moisture left in the clay. You think of the Passover lamb being roasted in the fire. Jesus, the Passover Lamb of God, is being slain for the sins of the world. He’s being roasted in the fire of God’s anger and God’s judgment. All dried up, He says, “I thirst.” Dehydrated; He can barely talk. “My tongue sticks to my jaws.” Every part of His being is in utter agony and anguish.

Verse 16, he goes on to say, “For dogs encompass me; a company of evil doers encircles me.”

I want us just to ponder, to meditate on what took place there at the cross. As the crowd is howling like hungry, blood-thirsty dogs, like a hunter surrounding his prey, they’re taunting, they’re mocking. They’re dogs encompassing Him.

He’s the pure One; the sinless One, hanging on the cross as a condemned criminal. Those who are watching are the criminals who should be on the cross, the company of evil doers who encircle Him and mock Him, the sinless Son of God. How can it be? The evil doers persecuting the Holy One of Israel.

“They have pierced my hands and feet,” verse 16 goes on to say. “I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me” (vv. 16-17). I can count all my bones. Here is a Man who is emaciated, skin and bones, the most clothing He has is a loin cloth. He’s exposed, and “they gloat over Me; they stare at Me.” There’s no sympathy over His agony. They’re gleeful over His suffering. They’re staring at Him, making a mockery of Him.

Verse 18: “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

Charles Spurgeon in his sermon on this passage talks about the hardness of heart that these men must have had to be able to gamble beneath the cross of an innocent Man.

How many of us have been guilty of just playing games beneath the shadow of the cross? Occupied with, distracted with trivial things, totally missing the point of the cross. Its shadow hangs over us. We see it in our churches; we wear it around our necks. We talk about it; we sing songs about it. But we miss the point. We’re oblivious; we’re blind and deaf and dumb, as much as those who divided His garment among them, and for His clothing cast lots there at the foot of the cross.

And here’s the thing, ladies: It’s our sin that did all this to Jesus.

Don’t get hung up so much on the physical description of what He suffered that you miss the point of it. Why did it please God to put His Son to death in this most painful, disgraceful way? He did it for our sins. He became sin for us. He took the death that we deserved.

If you’ve never trusted Christ as your sin bearer, your Savior, then would you just right now lift your eyes up to Him and say, “Lord, I repent of my sin. I believe; I trust You. You died in my place. Thank You. Come into my life. Save me.”

If you’re a child of God, you’ve experienced that great transaction of realizing that He gave you His righteousness as He took your sin, then lift your heart to Him and say, “Oh, Lord, thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You for what You did there. I deserved to die, but You died in my place.”

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my love, my soul, my all. Amen.

Leslie: Loneliness is a reality we will all face at some point, but Jesus was alone in a way that none of us can imagine. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been giving us a picture of that pain in a series called, Psalm of the Cross. It’s been a very helpful series as we prepare our hearts for resurrection Sunday coming in a few days.

I usually focus on Christ during this time of the year by choosing a book to study during the Lenten season. Meditating on the life and work of Jesus is so valuable. I hope you’ll consider doing this, too, using a book from Elyse Fitzpatrick called, Comforts from the Cross.

Elyse invites you to focus on the cross through a series of daily readings. You’ll find them surprisingly honest and practical. The book will bring comfort to any women who figure that God could never love them.

When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you Comforts from the Cross. Just call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

To close our time today, we’ll hear a clip from a song by Folk Angel, featuring Isaac Wimberley. Nancy heard this song and shared it with some of our team, saying, “Wouldn’t this be a great song during the Easter season?”  Let’s listen.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

So now we as His Bride as the ones waiting.
Like the saints that came before, we are anticipating.
He has shown us that this world is fading,
And He has caused our desire to be for Him
So Church, stay ready.
Keep your heart focused and your eyes steady.
Worship Him freely,
And never forgetting His great love for you.
Emmanuel, God with us. 1

Leslie: That’s the group Folk Angel, featuring Isaac Wimberley. It’s called “God With Us,” a powerful meditation during this holy week.

Have you ever imagined Jesus leading worship?

Nancy:
 I see Jesus as this great worship leader, with His arms extended, inviting us to join Him in praise that the sacrifice has been paid, the deliverance has been purchased, and there is a people of God being born through faith in Christ’s death.

Leslie:
Explore this tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1 Folk Angel. "God With Us." Christmas Songs, Vol. 3.

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