Have you ever wondered, “Has God forgotten me?”
If so, you are not the first. This is not a new experience. We find the same question expressed over and over again in the Bible. For example, David cried out:
How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.1
Psalm 13 sounds like the world of a person who is experiencing intense turmoil and confusion. And not briefly. Can you relate? Listen to his cry:
“Is this going to continue forever? I am sad every day. If you don’t help me I am going to die!”
That just sounds so difficult.
Has God forgotten me?
For so many people living with abuse, it’s just not simple. There is no quick fix. Hopefully, in certain situations, there can be quick improvement, such as the opportunity to leave a household. But depending on the tactics of the abuser, the attitudes of others, finances, housing, and so many other issues, improvement might take some time. Leaving abuse could even mean more turmoil and greater danger, at least for a while. It is absolutely vital that victims get support through those transitions. (One great source of support in Australia is 1800RESPECT.)
For many people, this is a marathon.
We don’t know the context of Psalm 13, but we do know that David suffered confusing and life-threatening abuse at the hands of Saul for years and years. Let’s assume whatever has been going on here has been happening for a long time.
David’s experience does not make sense in the light of who he knows God to be – unfailingly loving. How can that possibly be true when God remains silent? When he allows the trauma to continue? He sincerely wondered, “Has God forgotten me?”
David’s confusion is understandable. What was real here? The trauma was real. And God had not stopped it. Yet God was powerful enough to do something.
God loved him. He cares about people. How can all these things be true at the same time?
Others have struggled before us
Many of the psalms grapple with difficult dilemmas, horrible feelings, and unresolved questions. Sometimes these writers find some resolution by the end of their psalm. But not always. Psalm 88 for example, ends on the note:
You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend. 2
Some of these psalms sound more like a death metal song than something we might sing in church. They are dark! And yet, they echo the lived experience of so many people who struggle with trauma in life. That can be comforting. This experience of struggle and difficulty is allowed in the Bible. We have permission, and if we share that experience we are part of a long tradition. Very long. This psalm is around 3,000 years old.
What does that mean for us?
Aside from anything else, there is no rush. You do not need to be railroaded into resolution. You are allowed to ask, “Has God forgotten me?”, and many other similarly uncomfortable questions if you have them. It’s ok.
We are invited, not pressured, to hope
Many psalmists find their way to hope as they wrestle. Not all of them. But many. David wrote:
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.3
What we don’t know is how long the psalm took to write. Perhaps it was in one sitting, like one of those devotional times where you start off angry and then settle. Perhaps it was a work that took a long time to complete. Some writers, like David here, talk about resolution as a current experience.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation. 4
Honestly, I feel so glad for the person who experiences that. Hope is a wonderful and powerful thing: a goal one might eagerly reach for. But right at this moment, there are countless people who are still waiting. For good news, or for the assurance that good news is coming, and in this present life.
Meanwhile, other traumatised writers have similar themes but a different journey. They sound much more like they are intellectually aware that God is good, but still confused and angry. It’s not simple, and there’s no formula.
God doesn’t pressure us
As readers, we are not rushed by the text. This is God’s living, breathing word to us, and it gives us, also, time.
Time to breath.
If you have come across the word “Selah” in the psalms, its meaning is unknown for sure. However, there is some confidence it is a musical term that indicates a break in the song. A chance to pause, reflect. Breath. It’s there in Psalm 20, at the end of the first stanza, which begins:
May Yahweh answer you when you are in distress.5
If you are suffering, you might need to dig to find the parts of the Bible that resonate best with you at this time, although the Psalms might be easier than other areas. The stories are there. One of the strengths that can come out of trauma is the ability to spot passages you may have never heard anyone mention before. It takes a certain awareness and need to notice them.
Abuse can make even reading the Bible at all a very difficult thing to do. If that’s you, I want to affirm you. In the context of the Christian community, the Bible is often used by abusers as a tool to strengthen their hold. The same thing happens in other faith communities with their sacred texts. Honestly, it’s ok to yell at God about that manipulation too. He is a great listener. And if you need to back away from the Bible because there are too many triggers, I’m confident God gets it.
God is gentle
God takes our trauma into account. He has empathy.
A bruised reed he will not break.6
As the perfect human, even Jesus felt abandoned by God. In looking at Hannah’s struggle with this same dilemma, we remembered Jesus saying:
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? 7
That’s him, quoting Psalm 22. Does that mean Jesus also asked, “Has God forgotten me?” It seems his sense of abandonment by God at that time was deep.
The message is, it’s ok to struggle here. Jesus struggled. Even him. It’s not a sin.
Jesus made his feelings very clear, in public, in a loud voice. A cry of distress and abandonment in the midst of inhuman suffering. Before he died, he placed his life in God’s hands.
Into your hands I commit my spirit,8
he said. And anywhere between that first cry of abandonment and that final statement of trust, is territory we are allowed to share with him.
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