In any relationship, we can experience the pain of being abandoned or feeling deserted by another. The term “forsaken” seems simple, but is complicated and its definition is deep. In essence, being left by someone you love or being the one leaving involve the intense ability to open, or close, your heart. Overwhelmed by emotions of desperation while you’re heart is open to the pain or methodically closing your heart to avoid the pain that you are bringing upon someone else; either or, to do each avenue of abandonment well requires energy and intentionality. To forsake, or be forsaken, obviously carries into the pinnacle of any Christian’s most important relationship: theirs towards God and His towards them. This street goes both ways as with all other relationships we encounter, but with this one, we are the guilty party if there’s any forsaking going on.
“The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). This verse implies that we have a responsibility to be actively seeking God when in relationship with Him and, when we fall short, He will let us stagnate. In contrast, “For the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). These verses appear to contradict the former, but unpacking how we relate to God can help reconcile them. To be certain, we absolutely have the ability, once He’s made Himself known to us, to passionately pursue an ongoing relationship with God. When we allow hindrances to interfere with this pursuit, whether material or immaterial, we are at fault. In some cases, for Him to forsake us is reactional on our part as we feel emotionally distant from Him, as though He had abandoned us after we initiated abandonment first. Many Christians will be able to identify with this, the good ol’ peaks and valleys metaphor. However, even in those valleys, it is not true that He has left us. We, in turn, have left Him.
To read through the Scriptures which share the story of the Israelites never ceases to confirm that it is His people, us, that perpetually forsake Him: by neglecting to communicate through prayer, not prioritizing daily (yes, daily) time in His Word, passing on opportunities to pursue a clearer knowledge of His character, deciding that studying theology isn’t a beneficial way to spend your time because just loving Jesus will suffice (which, it can, will, and does), and again, again, and again, turning our hearts towards other idols as the Israelites kept on doing. We, with them, are stubborn, stiff-necked, and so set in our sin that to intentionally, or perhaps unintentionally, drift or do a complete about face in this relationship is clearly the norm; so it’d only make sense that it is God who has to never forsake us, regardless of our trespasses, or else all Christ’s work was for nothing.
As a relational example, what happens to marriages when one or both partners neglects to communicate on a daily basis, seeks to understand and know the other more clearly by “studying” the heart of another, or disregards the intentionality it requires to take and make time to live life together? Abandonment. Eventually, neglecting to be purposeful in the pursual of your partner will lead to an apathetic end to your relationship. The same can be said of any relationship: children, friends, relatives. If time and attention aren’t prioritized, the forsaking begins to set in and, before realizing it, the stagnation will inevitably lead one or both parties to be forsaken, or do the forsaking.
As a child of God, we’ve been chosen and He will not let us go. Even through centuries of the Israelites repeatedly forsaking Him, He always had the plan for their redemption, and ours. Before Christ came, Psalm 22:1 read, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” After Christ’s arrival, as He hung on the Cross, He spoke the same words in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. Why did He feel forsaken by the Father? In short, so that we could never be forsaken by Him. Jesus soaked up every moment of forsaking that we had, have, and will commit against the Father. The Israelites, and us, could never wholly commit to God no matter how hard we tried, so He cleared the road for us. Since our identity is in Jesus Christ, above all, to dabble in forsaking Him is on us. Yes, in the end, your salvation is secured in His blood, but is that all you desire to have within a relationship? Just to know that it’s there, solid and sealed? With no desire to pursue knowledge or growth in any other aspect of the other? Hopefully, no. Hopefully, we can further our relationships with those in our lives with intention and, even moreso, further our relationship with God by gratefully accepting His grace, with a motivation to commune with Him driven by gratitude, and not forsaking that our chief identity is in Him who will never forsake us.