The Crisis Of Psalms 91

No matter how much we prayed, read or preached about God’s protection and refuge, Soldiers were still dying.

For those who struggle with the spiritual aspect of PTSD the challenge to one’s faith can be just as daunting as dealing with the emotional aspect of PTSD. When it comes to reconciling one’s faith with traumatic experiences we often find ourselves expressing statements like these: “I can’t trust God anymore.”
 “I thought God would answer my prayers.”
“I can’t believe in God’s presence, power, or character anymore.” 
“God has abandoned me.” “I am angry at God.”
“My faith isn’t big enough to handle this.”
“God is punishing me.”

Throughout the Psalms David writes concerning the questioning of his faith and why God seemed to have forsaken him.

Psalms 13:1-4 “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”

Psalms 22:1-2 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.”

David wrote over seventy-five desolate, anguish-filled passages like this in the Psalms. He struggled intensely with trauma and spiritual injury that comes with enduring trauma. These questions are common among those who have faith in God and who face trauma. Trauma and the effects of PTSD will often shake the foundation of one’s faith, sometimes to the point that we “lose” our faith completely. While deployed to Iraq from October 2006 – January 2008, I faced my own crisis of faith. I called it the Psalms 91 crisis.

Psalms 91:1-7 “Whoever 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.”

I saw and heard this Psalm quoted throughout both of my deployments to Iraq. During the summer of 2007, I finally found myself questioning the truth of Psalms 91. I started to become bitter and angry with God. No matter how much we prayed, read or preached about God’s protection and refuge, Soldiers were still dying. I came to a point where I could no longer reconcile what I read in the Psalms with what I saw and experienced. I struggled with this crisis for many years. No matter the progress I was making towards recovery, I harbored this spiritual anger towards God for allowing so many people to die. As God slowly healed my spiritual anger, He revealed the many ways He unquestionably provide protection from harm and was in fact a refuge to others and myself. In acknowledging this, I had to accept the truth that war is not of God, but is the result of the fallenness of man and in itself is evil. As in all things sinful and evil, there are consequences and often times the consequences are severe. Combat deaths are not the result of God’s inability to save and protect, but is the natural result of the evilness of war. When I came to this understanding, the healing of my spiritual injury began. It was not instantaneously but rather a gradual reaffirming of my faith in God and a testimony to the graciousness and patience of a loving Heavenly Father.

I Miss the 4th of July

Tuzla

It was July 4th, 1999 at Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia. Where I have one of my favorite 4th of July memories. We were in Bosnia for 5 months, we were working long hours, 7-days a week. We had little time off and the constant grind was becoming tiresome. There was a plan to have an outside BBQ for everyone. We were going to have volleyball tournaments, horseshoe tournaments, basketball games and have a concert by Larry Gatlin. There were even rumors the day would end with a firework show on the airfield.

When the 4th finally came, the day was beautiful, the sun was out and it was a perfect day. We all enjoyed a day of relaxation and great BBQ. Larry Gatling was interacting with us, singing, joking as though he was at a family BBQ. The Commanding General even came up and sang Roy Orbison’s Pretty Women. He nailed it and if you closed your eyes you would think Orbison was actually singing. The day ended with a grand fireworks display on the airfield. I did not expect too much from the show, I figured it would be a few fireworks and maybe some flares, then we would be on our way. However, it was an actual firework show and it was really good. The thing I remember the most about the show. Was halfway through the show, the Bosnians came out and starting firing their AK-47s to help us celebrate. It is a fun memory one that I look back upon fondly.

Until 2004 I looked forward to attending a good firework show, I enjoyed them and waited anxiously for the shows. I miss those days; I miss the 4th of July. I don’t go to firework shows anymore. Instead of looking forward to the shows I now face the 4th of July fireworks with dread. July 4th of 2005 was the first firework show I attended after returning from my first deployment to Iraq. I took my family to a local park and was looking forward to a great night of fun and a fantastic firework show. It only took a few minutes to realize this was not going to be the experience I had hoped. Within a few minutes, I found myself back at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq. The mortar shells that were exploding overhead reminded me of the constant mortar attacks we received everyday at camp Anaconda. Out of the year I spent in Balad, there was only Balladone day we did not receive mortars. On my Birthday October 2, 2004 we spend almost the entire day in our shelters due to constant mortar attacks. During the show, as the whistling fireworks screamed into the sky and burst with a loud blast, I was instantly transported back to my tent in Iraq. Laying on the ground while listening to the incoming rocket fire. Wondering when and where the rocket was going to land. Those moment of waiting seemed like an eternity, “where was it going to land and was my tent going to be shredded with shrapnel” As I watched the fireworks, I remember thinking while I was in Iraq “am I low enough on the ground to avoid the shrapnel if it did shred my tent?” During the show I was reminded of the day I was in my tent and I heard a rocket approaching. As it came closer to my tent, I could hear the rocket descend and I realized it was going to land in my area. All I could do was lay on Rocketthe ground and pray for the best. I heard the rocket hit the ground just outside my tent. I waited, but there was no explosion, after a minute or so I got up and stuck my head out of the tent flap. I looked to the left of my tent. Just on the other side of the small road was the rocket that had landed. The rocket was still smoking but never exploded. Throughout my 24-months in Iraq I experienced many mortar and rocket attacks. But this one experience sticks out in my mind. Now when I see or hear the loud explosions of fireworks on the 4th of July. I mentally go back to the moment I was laying on the ground in my tent waiting for the explosion, wondering if I’m going to survive.

I miss the 4th of July fireworks show, I miss them so.