Stephen A. Peterson
During the Battle for Fallujah, Iraq, Lance Corporal Harlan Ducksworth was seriously injured by what appeared to be a mortar round. Fear of being physically disfigured and in pain for life, Lance Corporal Ducksworth screamed for members of his squad to end his life. Rather than honor his request, the squad leader ordered Lance Corporal Ducksworth be immediately evacuated to the nearest American Medical Aide Station where he was admitted to surgery. Following fourteen hours in surgery, Lance Corporal Ducksworth was heard to say to his fellow Marines: “Guys what I said to you was really stupid. Sorry. I was outta of my head. I’ve come to realize that I’ve said some real stupid things in the past and if I live for any length of time, it likely I’ll do it again.”
Those of us who have sat down to reflect upon the comings and goings of life, have more than likely heard someone or perhaps even stated words far worse than Lance Corporal Ducksworth’s in critical moments of their lives. Some have cussed or cursed the very Name of God, others have made rebellious statements and other even rose to the level of disowning and rejecting the very existence of God for years as well as influence others to do the same.
In time, however, some of those who rebelled against God came to realize their mistake or mistakes. During periods of personal and social conflict and tragedy, the Name of God is invoked more often than any—respectfully and disrespectfully (Oh, God!; My, God!; Oh, my, God!). Those who have had war time battlefield experience and lived through it will tell you that nothing or no one is called upon more often than God among Christians, agnostics and even atheists. This confirms the statement: “There are no atheists on the battlefield.”
It is written in Psalm 39, the Psalm of comfort, to those who are in pain and suffering often turn to. At the time he composed the Psalm, David was seriously ill and was thought to be near death. Initially, he suffered in silence. However, when he could not stand his suffering any longer, he prayed:
“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days,
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before You.
Each man’s life is but a breath.
Man is a mere phantom as he goes about life.
He hustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in You.
Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for You are the one who has done this,
Remove Your scourge from me.
I am overcome by the flow of Your hand.
You rebuke and discipline men for their sin;
You consume their wealth like a moth—
each man is but a breath.
Hear my prayer, O Lord,
listen to my cry for help;
be not deaf to my cries.
For I dwell with You as an alien,
a stranger, as all my fathers were.
Look away from me, that I may rejoice again
before I depart and am no more.”
As with David, the human desire for instant gratification continues to be a problem then and now. Although David’s statement appears as an innocent prayer, he tells God to just leave him alone and go ahead and kill him as he (David) is just a worthless piece of “whatever”.
Perhaps of all the statements in the Bible, Psalm 39 is as clear a statement of God’s willingness to overlook human inconsistencies and sinful ways when He is approached with a sincere intent to reconcile with Him. It is a statement that indicates God is ready to receive anyone back at any time when one is sorry for being rebellious and stupid no matter how serious the offense is or was.
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