Surviving the God-Forsaken Days (Psalm 22)
By: Rubel Shelly

One of the songs of personal lament preserved for us in the Psalter of Israel runs this way:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest. …
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help. …
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death. …
I can count all my bones. …
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid! (Psalm 22:1-2,10-11,14-15,17a,19).
When someone first comes to such a text, she feels terribly uncomfortable. It certainly isn’t in the spirit of popular religion – which has God making life sunny and bright! And some versions of Christianity have no room for Psalm 22. But it belongs in the Bible precisely because pain, lament, and confusion are part of the lived experience of faith. And it is a shallow and unhelpful-when-the-chips-are-down version of Christianity that fails to grasp that life beneath the cross of Jesus involves more than the confession that he suffered under Pontius Pilate. It also entails deciding what to do with one’s own suffering.

The sermon following this introduction consists of an interview with Marine Captain John Paul Norman. Captain Norman was severely burned 15 months before this interview in the crash of an AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopter during training exercises. He recounts his experience, his faith struggles, and his resulting confidence in God. He writes:

This experience has definitely made me a stronger person, but more importantly it has drawn me closer to Jesus. I have found that when all earthly concerns are stripped away, Jesus is all that matters. I have found that Jesus is the only person who can provide the comfort we need to deal with life. I have learned that the reason we pray is to ask God, through his son, to be with us when the though times come, not to take the tough times away. I have learned to cling to Him and the cross in my most demanding moments and that will get me through.
The full content of the interview is available through the media link on this page.