In a biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson explores the question of whether the corporate genius ever got over the fact that he was given up at birth by his biological parents.
Isaacson quotes co-workers and friends who believe Steve Jobs struggled with a lifelong fear of abandonment. They recall not only his strong desire to be in complete control of what he was producing but also his tendency to run over those who got in his way. One who felt used and thrown away by Jobs notes that those who have been abandoned tend to be abandoners.
The biographer, however, went on to say that Jobs denied the explanation and defended the parents who adopted him. He quotes Steve Jobs as saying that the only parents he ever knew always made him feel special.
Ironically, part of Jobs’ legacy is a corporate logo that symbolizes not only the knowledge of the world but also a human story of relational loss and separation anxiety. Lifted from the pages of the Bible, an apple with a bite out of it is an allusion not only to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but also to the root issues of abandonment.
According to Genesis, we all have origins in a story that goes beyond parental wrongs to edgy questions of whether the God who made us can be counted on when we have not been faithful to Him.
Consider, for instance, what we hear from the pen of Israel’s King David. On the one hand, he wrote, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10 NKJV). Here David expressed his confidence in a God who repeatedly assures His people that He will never leave or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5-6).
But there was another side to David’s trust in God that is worth thinking about. Just before expressing confidence that when left by his parents the Lord would not forsake him (Psalm 27:10), he prayed, “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, Lord, I will seek.’ Do not hide Your face from me; do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation” (Psalm 27:8-9 NKJV).
At this point in his prayer, David was expressing fear rather than confidence. But he was not contradicting himself. He knew that if God forsakes us, He does so to bring us to our senses, so that He can respond to our calls for help. That’s why David could go on to say, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10 NKJV).
David had learned firsthand that if we turn our backs on the Lord, He loves us too much to continue to give us the joy of His presence and the evidence of His favor. It was this kind of a good and faithful God that David had in mind when, toward the end of his life, he said to his son Solomon, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9 NKJV).
David had learned by experience how much damage he could do by forsaking the Lord. In his adultery with Bathsheba, followed by his conspiracy to kill her husband, he discovered the irreversible harm that we can do to others when we turn our back on God.
Solomon unfortunately didn’t learn from his father’s mistakes. He too pursued destructive sexual relationships and then, to please his many wives, built altars to their pagan gods on the hills surrounding Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:9-14). Turning his back on God, he lost the kingdom entrusted to him.
Both David and Solomon found out what it means to lose the joy of God’s presence and favor. Yet both also lived long enough to discover that, as far as God was from their sin, He was as close to them as a broken, remorseful heart (Psalm 30:5; 51:12; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
Only by the rest of the story, however, do we see how God could offer such mercy while at the same time remaining true to the highest standards of justice. Centuries later, another Son of David showed the lengths to which God would go to not forsake His children. Nothing speaks more to our fear of abandonment than to hear what was happening when Jesus cried out in the moment of His own suffering and death: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46 NKJV).
How could we find any greater confidence in God? Where could we find any better reason to love one another than in Jesus’ willingness to endure the separation we deserve—to bring us to Himself and to make His Father our Father, forever?
Father in heaven, as You have given us in Your Son the assurance that You will never leave or forsake us, please help us to love one another, as You have loved us.—Mart DeHaan