• Gordon Nickel

"Rescue me from the mouth of the lions"

Friedensfeld West, Good Friday, 10 April 2020

Thirty years ago the ministers at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Karachi, Pakistan asked me to give the Good Friday meditation on the words of Jesus on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1) I wanted to contribute to the Good Friday service in this way, but I was literally unable to do so. I had fallen into a depression that at the time was continuing into its fourth month, and I simply was not able to compose and deliver this short meditation that other times might have seemed quite manageable.

Instead, I ended up spending Eastern weekend at a mission hospital in the northern town of Sialkot. There a British Christian doctor interviewed me and found a way of helping me before the end of the week. I returned to my family in Karachi very grateful and enormously relieved. I could slowly resume my full workload and, together with Gwenyth, complete our first three-year term in Pakistan. Whereas, in the midst of the depression I had begun to think that I would need to give up and return with my family to Canada.

The following Good Friday, 1991, I was asked once more to present the meditation on Jesus' words, "...why have you forsaken me?" This time to was able to speak, and to speak on Psalm 22 and Matthew 27 out of an experience of suffering--though of course nothing like the suffering that Jesus endured for our salvation. For me the depression, and my inability to do even the simplest tasks of my calling, had brought me into a totally new dimension of trust in God. I had hit the wall of my own limitations and had become intimately familiar with my inadequacies. I felt I could identify with many of the Psalm writer's striking expressions of terror and desperation, including the evocative "Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help" (verse 11).

At the same time I felt I could also appreciate the surprising turn in Psalm 22: "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you" (verse 22). I do not remember now what I said those many years ago in my short meditation, but it must have included heart-felt gratitude to God with a flood of emotion that took me right to the edge of weeping uncontrollably. It must also have included an expression of thanks and wonder about my life partner Gwenyth, who had remained strong and immovable throughout my encounter with personal weakness.


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