Have you ever felt left out? Excluded? Maybe even abandoned? Whether it’s a childhood best friend who suddenly dumped you, a high school romance that went awry, a parent who walked out, or a husband who broke his vows, most of us have experienced some form of abandonment.
And in that moment, it can feel like the world shifted on its axis. Suddenly it all goes dark. People and places we thought were safe are no longer welcoming to us. Even those who stick by our side can suffer the brunt of our suspicion: Are you going to leave me, too?
When we’re struggling with feeling abandoned, we might not have the words to pray. If we’re honest with ourselves, we might not even want to pray. After all, it’s easy to blame God for these broken relationships, because couldn’t he have done something to protect us? To stop this from happening? To keep us safe and sound?
We might feel alone in our abandonment, but we don’t have to struggle in isolation because our Savior knows what it’s like to feel abandoned.
WHY HAVE YOU ABANDONED ME?
On the hardest night of his life, Jesus asked his three closest friends to stay close and pray with him, but they fell asleep. After they failed Jesus three times, Judas betrayed him, and all eleven followers abandoned him. One of them, Peter, even denied knowing him at all.
Betrayed. Abandoned. Denied.
Jesus was utterly alone.
Except he wasn’t. Until that very last moment on the cross, when even his Father turned his face away.
In a heart-wrenching scene, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matt. 27:46, CSB). These words were from a well-worn prayer on Jesus’ lips, a psalm memorized from his boyhood that would have risen easily to his mind in those agonizing moments on the cross.
The first verses of Psalm 22 paint a depressing picture: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning? My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest” (vv. 1–2, CSB).
While the psalm was originally written in Hebrew, Matthew records that Jesus spoke it in Aramaic, showing that Jesus wasn’t just quoting David’s words from a thousand years before but was personally appropriating that prayer to his own experience and, in fact, fulfilling it.
JESUS PRAYED THE PSALMS
I’ve learned so much from Jesus’ choice of words in his last hours on the cross. Time after time, he turned to the Psalms, a prayerbook that gave him the vocabulary to express such deep soul anguish that no other words would suffice.
Yes, in quoting the Psalms, Jesus fulfilled prophecies spoken long ago through the psalmists and the prophets. But in doing so, he also modeled a way to pray when hurt runs so deep that we lack adequate words.
What’s striking in Psalm 22 is the honesty with which the psalmist expressed his emotions to God. He cried out that he felt abandoned, endangered, exhausted, and ignored. And not just by his friends, but by God himself. While many of us would shy away from being so honest with God, the psalmist (and Jesus) demonstrate that God welcomes our honest admissions, even those hard emotions that “good Christians” think they shouldn’t feel. We can express our honest needs to God because he knows them already. He wants us to bring all these needs to him in prayer.
Also noticeable is that the psalmist quickly focuses his attention on reciting God’s goodness. In Psalm 22:3–5, he reminds his heart what he knows to be true about God: God listens to our prayers (v. 3); God is dependable and trustworthy (vv. 4–5); God is powerful (v. 5); and God is faithful to keep his promises (v. 5).
In short, the psalmist is reminding himself that even though it feels like God has abandoned him, the truth that trumps his emotions is that God will never abandon his children. That’s the very truth that Jesus would have been clinging to on the cross as well, as evidenced by the other psalm he quoted (see Ps. 31:5 and preceding verses).
And the lyrical nature of this psalm reminds us that these are not simply abstract truths about God’s nature but rather personal experiences of his involvement in our lives.
So when the world is closing in, when we feel like we have no words to pray, when it seems everyone has abandoned us, we can turn to the Psalms, like Jesus did.
LEARNING TO PRAY THE PSALMS
When I first started praying through Scripture, I didn’t quite know how to personalize the words of the Bible to my own life. It didn’t seem right to simply cut and paste my name into these verses, because I didn’t want to take the words out of their proper context.
But as I studied the book of Psalms, I noticed a pattern developing in the way the psalmists phrased their prayers. Quite often, they started out by reciting God’s goodness, moved to expressing their own needs, and ended by declaring their trust in God’s faithfulness. Interspersed here and there were calls to selah—to seek God’s stillness.
So over time I began praying this same way, looking at psalms to recite what I learned about God’s goodness (R), basing my expression of need on those very same verses (E), taking time to be still with God (S), and reminding my heart to trust his faithfulness (T). I put those elements in order (REST) to remind my heart to rest in God’s loving presence.
Consider how we can use this model for praying through Psalm 36:7 when we battle feelings of abandonment: “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (NIV).
Recite God’s Goodness:
Lord God, your love cannot compare to any human love! You never leave me or turn away from me. Your faithful love extends higher than the sky above, and anyone looking for a safe place to land will find their refuge in you. Thank you for never turning anyone away. You are so good and kind.
Express Your Neediness:
God, you know the hurt in my heart right now. It feels like those I trust the most have turned their back on me, abandoning me. Here I am, all alone. Except I’m not alone, because you are always with me. Remind me of your constant presence, Lord. Help me to run to you and seek refuge in you right now as I feel abandoned.
Seek His Stillness:
Take a few moments to become aware of God’s loving presence surrounding you this very moment. Hide under the shadow of his wings, and let him quiet you with his love. Is there anything he wants to say to you?
Trust His Faithfulness:
Lord God, you welcome me to come to you just as I am. You never reject or abandon those who seek your face. Thank you for spreading your cloak of faithful love over me. Thank you for hiding me in the shadow of your wings. I trust that you are doing a good work, even in this heartbreak, and that you will keep me close while you heal my heart. I trust you. And I love you, too.
NEVER ALONE IN PRAYER
Every feeling of abandonment we have ever felt, Jesus also felt on our behalf. Not just because he is the substitutionary Lamb of God who carried the sins of the world. But also because, as Dane Ortlund explains, in Jesus’ substitution, he endured the loss of “a sense of the love of God and an experienced open channel of communion with the Father.”
In other words, the Father turned his face away from his beloved Son. And Jesus endured this all out of love, for “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
This is how great Jesus’ love is for us.
And because Jesus experienced the darkness of feeling abandoned, we never have to feel the despair of being utterly alone. For Jesus passed from death to life, and he is now our High Priest in heaven who sympathizes with our weaknesses and longs to help us in our time of need (see Heb. 4:14–16).
In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus is praying for us (see Heb. 7:25), so even if we stumble over our words as we attempt to pray, Jesus is right alongside us, praying on our behalf in the heavenly throne room.
So take heart, dear sister, and bring your abandonment to Jesus.
For we are never alone in prayer.
Meet the Author
Asheritah Ciuciu is a bestselling author, national speaker, and host of the Prayers of REST podcast. A Romanian missionary kid, she's passionate about helping people around the world enjoy Jesus through creative Bible habits. Asheritah is married to her high school sweetheart and together they raise their three spunky kids in northeast Ohio. Find her new prayer devotional and get more prayer resources at prayersofrest.com.