As I sat in the middle of the student center, tears rolling down my face for what felt like the thousandth time that week, the words of Psalm 42 rang strong in my mind: “My tears have been my food, day and night.”
“I just don’t know what to do!” I said, “I love them all, but this is so hard!”
In the weeks that preceded this conversation, relationships with friends whom I cherished had taken a decidedly sour turn.
As a group of around a dozen first and second year college students, we spent the majority of our time together. All Christians, we actively participated in the same on-campus Christian organization. We attended the same church, lived in the same residence halls, took the same classes, and often had meals and social gatherings with each other. I considered us the best of friends.
At least, we were. Somehow, in a complicated series of snubs, unresolved issues, mishandled disagreements, and an inexcusable amount of gossip, a large rift had been created that no one seemed to know how to fix.
This problem fell on top of a tough quarter of school in which I had loaded up on credit hours and obligations, and a spiritual dry season that seemed unending.
Often, as I cried into my pillow late at night, the word that seemed to echo within the silence of my dorm room was “abandoned.”
Where was my Father God now? The words of Psalm 42 screamed in my heart as I raged against God in my lonely circumstances.
“Where are You?” I would cry, “Why have you abandoned me?”
“I feel like abandoning it all, I don’t know what to do,” I spluttered, starting to feel slightly ashamed for my outburst of emotion.
Sara, a leader in the campus ministry and a friend, listened patiently as I explained my situation.
For as long as I could remember, I had been cycling through friends every year or two. Inevitably, the friends that I made would decide that I didn’t belong, or an argument or disagreement would arise, and the friendship would slowly fade. Nothing big, nothing dramatic. Just a slow death that would occur as I walked away, abandoning my friends along with the problems our relationship had encountered.
“Well,” Sara began, “that’s one thing I won’t let you do.” Looking me in the eyes, she told me lovingly but firmly, “If I see you hanging out with another group of people, I’ll rebuke you.”
Point made. I may have been struggling with my feelings of abandonment, but abandoning the situation was not the solution.
In fact, the right thing to do was exactly the opposite. Just as Jesus entered into an earth marred by sin and hurt, and began to sort through the chaos of human relationships, I’m called to do the same.
God had, and still has, every right to abandon us. He created us for His purpose, and we have abandoned Him. It would be just, perhaps even logical, to leave us to our own devices; to let us suffer the consequences of our choices.
But our Papa was not satisfied with that solution. Instead of abandoning us to wallow in the messes that we have made, He sent His perfect Son to die in our place and restore our relationship with Him.
Was it painful? Yes. Was it costly? Certainly. Was it worth it? I know with every fiber of my being that it was.
God loved us with abandon.
He left His own Son, allowing Christ to cry out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned Me?” He abandoned his own Son, perfect and pure, on the Cross, utterly forsaking Him in a moment that made heaven groan and the earth quake, in order to bring us to Him.
If I desire to be like God, then I, too, must love with abandon.
What does this mean? I think the book Inside Out by Dr. Larry Crabbe says it best: “We are called to enter the disturbing realities of our own life, and the lives of others, with life-changing truth.”
I’m called to enter into the world — the messy, confusing, chaotic, painful world, and bring the truth of the Gospel. Oftentimes, this will hurt. It is in these times that I have to remind myself, as Sara told me in the middle of that busy student center, that love, especially the love that the Gospel calls for, is not easy.
The Lord’s perfect love never promises to remove the sting of others’ failures to love me properly, or my failure to love others properly — not on this earth. But it does give me all that I need to stand as a whole person, capable of loving others without regard for their capacity to hurt me.
That is what it means to love with abandon. Abandoning all that I have — my safety, my comfort, perhaps even my life — to love God and His people as I am called.
Will it be painful? Yes. Will it be costly? Certainly. Will it be worth it? The Lord says it will be, and His promises are trustworthy and true.
As for my friends and me? We called a group meeting in a dorm lobby, where we prayed, cried, looked at Scripture, and hashed out our differences for over two hours. Our friendship was saved, allowing us to press forward to love with abandon. I can look forward to many more years with these friends. These years will certainly be filled with their fair share of trouble, but there will always be the hope that comes with the knowledge that our Lord abandoned all to love us and let us love Him.
Why should I want to do anything less?