I am writing this in August, the day after the collapse of the Genoa motorway bridge when 43 people lost their lives in an horrific accident, an event met with anger, disbelief and a state of emergency in Italy. As with other man-made or natural disasters, this one runs the risk of making an impression for a limited time only, but for one thing: the awful, desperate screaming out for Dio by a man trapped in the wreckage below the bridge. Who could fail to have been moved by his call of distress?
Psalm 22 is a sustained lament and plea for deliverance best known to Christians for the fragments repeated by Jesus on the Cross. In a series of agonised entreaties the poet-psalmist approaches God with reflections on his personal suffering – no comfort or help, no answer, no rest; just scorn from some and mockery from others. Though his circumstances seem appalling, the psalmist acknowledges his past experience of God has been as a small child to a loving mother: safe, secure and shielded from danger (Psalm 131: 2). God is ‘My God’ still (Psalm 22: 10). It’s on this premise that the psalmist puts his trust in God again:
“Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.” (Psalm 22: 11).
Mother Julian’s wisdom speaks down the centuries to us, assuring us of God’s ultimate rooting for us, despite our problems:
“He did not say, ‘You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work-weary, you shall not be discomforted.’ But he said, ‘You shall not be overcome.’ God wants us to heed these words so that we shall always be strong in trust, both in sorrow and in joy.” (see Enfolded in Love: Daily Readings with Julian of Norwich, 1980).
Can we hang onto these words today, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in?
God of wisdom,
Mother and Father to us,
Be not far from us
When trouble is near
And there is no one to help.
9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.