Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. (Psalm 22:11)
Back in 2015, movie goers were treated to two outstanding performances by two great actors—Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, and Matt Damon in The Martian. Even though the settings couldn’t have been more different, both stories were about human survival and self-reliance. DiCaprio’s character, Hugh Glass, is a frontiersman in the uncharted North American wilderness of 1823, while Damon portrays Mark Watney, an astronaut on a mission to Mars in 2035. In both stories, the main character is on a wild, uncharted adventure; each suffers what appears to be a life-threatening injury, and each character is abandoned by his traveling companions and left for dead.
The stories are about the struggle for survival and overcoming adversity, but they are also about struggling with the helplessness and loneliness of abandonment. Despite the uncanny similarities, however, the two movies end up taking us in very different directions. While DiCaprio’s frontiersman finds himself truly alone and abandoned, Damon’s astronaut discovers that even though his situation is grave…even though there is no one around him for millions of miles…he is not alone.
Psalm 22 is David’s song of abandonment and lament. It is his pain-filled prayer when things seem hopeless; when it feels as though he has been forgotten and left to suffer and die alone. It is also the song that Jesus himself cries out from the cross in his dying moments, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46) But long before it was Jesus’ cry, it was David’s psalm…it was the long lament of the people of Israel in exile. And for many people today it is still their constant, agonizing question. Where is God…when we are suffering physically, when we are devastated emotionally, when we are “left for dead” with no one to help?
But David’s story doesn’t end with the conclusion that he is all alone; it doesn’t wallow in his feeling of abandonment. Even though things seem impossible, even though fear and pain are his constant companion, even though this path may lead him to death—God is with him, and God is good. He ends the song with an extended praise:
“I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (vs. 22-24)
God hasn’t abandoned him! God hasn’t hidden His face. God is never too distant to hear our cries. As a child of the King, I am never alone, even when I am lonely. I am never without hope; never without help; never without the love of my good Father.
3000 years after David wrote his song, we continue to cry out. God never promised that our life—even our life in Christ—would be easy, but he has promised that we will never be alone in the pain. It was true for David, it was true for Jesus, and it is true for me. The Apostle Paul described a disciple’s life this way:
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
Paul’s words are intended to offer encouragement and comfort in the worst of circumstances—pandemics, poverty, persecution or political unrest. And we can be confident in those words, because we belong to a King who promised he would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). When God seems far off, don’t despair. You are not abandoned and you are not alone. Hope and help are on the way. God is with us, and God is good. Stay thirsty for him!