When God Seems to Turn His Back on Us ...
In my most recent Question of the Week, I asked:
Andrew Solomon in his book, "The Noonday Demon," observes that depressions are like snowflakes, no two are alike. Everyone of us has a different experience of depression, a different story. Question:
If you had to describe your depression in 15 seconds to the person riding the elevator with you, how would you describe it?
Nothing could have prepared me for Tabby's response, whose answer in full was "Psalm 88." Then again, "The Noonday Demon" in my question is a reference to Psalm 91.
I immediately looked up Psalm 88, and was hit in the gut with this passage:
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.
Trust me, I've been there, and so, I am certain, have just about all of you reading this. It's as if God had turned His back on us. Indeed:
You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily upon me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
Meanwhile, over at Psalm 91:
In late September, 2001, just weeks after the horror of 9/11, I attended a conference in Hartford, CT that featured Patricia Mulready MD as a speaker. Dr Mulready specializes in complementary medicine in a nearby town and is contending with a major chronic illness.
The first thing we ask when something bad happens, Dr Mulready told her audience, is why? Then, why me? A useless question, she says, as the answer is more like why not me? Or, it just is.
Spirituality focuses on personal meaning, a reason for living, for getting up in the morning. There is an interconnectedness with others and an emphasis on goodness. The tragedy of 9/11 didn’t seem to have anything good about it, she related, yet we witnessed good people doing good things. Moreover, the events of Sept 11 "renewed my determination I will be a force for good."
A spiritual attitude doesn’t ease the pain so much as enlists our hurt and suffering in a process that changes and transforms us. Says Dr Mulready, "I will get through this challenge, and I’ll be better because of it."
Then Dr Mulready distributed copies of Psalm 91, which is known as "The Soldier's Prayer." The Psalm reads in full:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-
then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."
Thanks to Tabby's totally unexpected and forceful response to my question, I had the opportunity to read both Psalms 88 and 91 together. I am still absorbing the profound impact, but it is your own impressions that I am most interested in. Please contribute to this conversation by going to the comments below ...