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 provides 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.