There is a moment in Captain Phillips when Tom Hanks falls apart. And there’s a striking realism about the scene, the nurse in the room makes no attempts to offer him platitudes or well-rehearsed lines, she just gets on with her job. The film is about the attempted takeover of a tanker by Somalian pirates, and Captain Phillips does his best to keep them at bay. It’s a tense, gritty, action-packed movie. And quite clearly Captain Phillips is out of his depth. Early in the story, when he contacts his base to tell them he is being chased they tell him to make ready with the ship’s firehoses, to which the captain replies, ‘Is that it?’ This line perfectly sums up the feeling that he has been cut adrift and must somehow make it through this terrible dilemma. No surprise then that he should fall apart, this is no James Bond movie.
Life sometimes ambushes us. It’s full of tales of the unexpected. We plan one thing, something else comes along. We expect success and triumph, disaster and failure slap us in the face. Jesus had grown up with a life full of difficulty, in a nation held captive by the brutal Roman Empire. When he says one day, ‘In this world you will have troubles and sorrows…’ he knows what he’s talking about. He understands. (John 16 v 33) Isaiah chapter 53 describes him as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.
The writers of the psalms also knew about trouble, and many of their writings could have been prayed by Captain Phillips. A few words from the beginning of Psalm 55: ‘Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles. My enemies shout at me, making loud and wicked threats. They bring trouble on me, hunting me down in their anger.’