Staff Blogger: Rev. Dr. Charles Yoost, Director of Religious Life & Church Outreach
Read Psalm 91
These are trying times. Two months ago, “social distancing,” “sheltering in place” and wearing masks were novel phrases and ideas. Now they are part of our daily lives. Fear abounds, and many are having trouble navigating this new environment.
When the burdens of the day are extremely stressful, I find myself almost instinctively turning to the Psalms, written over 3,000 years ago, where generations of faithful people have found help and hope.
During this pandemic, the words of Psalm 91 seem especially relevant. The Psalmist talks about “the deadly pestilence.” The word “pestilence” means “fatal epidemic disease.” As we hear the rising death toll of victims of the Coronavirus, we can relate!
However, the Psalmist refers to God several times as the provider of shelter, refuge and defense (91:2,4,9). This Psalm addresses someone who has already committed him or herself to God’s love and care. Yet, even though this individual trusts in God, mortal danger surrounds (v.7). The person is threatened by a wide array of evils that take various shapes and work around the clock (night, day, dark, noontime; vv. 4-5).
How much these descriptions relate to us today! We, too, are struggling with fear and anxiety as we face an unknown future, bombarded by discouraging news, 24-7. Health professionals describe anxiety as a generalized fear that dangers exist everywhere, constantly threatening us. For those plagued with anxiety disorders, and that includes nearly a quarter of the world’s population, it is important to address patterns of thought that focus on perceived dangers by re-framing their situation. Among those treatments recommended for those suffering from anxiety are conversations with counselors, practices of meditation, and prayer.
Here is where Psalm 91 becomes so relevant! Re-read verses 1 and 2. Here the Psalmist re-frames the sufferer’s world by calling to mind the sufferer’s true identity and the actual situation, namely, that the sufferer is in the protection of Almighty God. Not only that, the Psalmist offers words of meditation for the sufferer to repeat in times of stress and anxiety in order reaffirm that frame.
The God who protects us also offers us hope for the future. “Those who love me, I will deliver,” God promises (v. 14). “When they call me, I will answer them. I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them” (v. 15). I believe God is telling us that the worst thing is not the last thing! God will have the last word. God will see us through.
When we get discouraged, beaten down and depressed, let us open our Bibles to Psalm 91, and let God re-frame our thoughts. Let us meditate on these timeless words. And then let us pray for courage and strength to face this day and every day.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your love that surrounds us and protects us. Thank you for your continuing reassurance, which helps us to control our fears and calm our anxious hearts. Allow us to breathe deeply, and to relax, knowing that we are resting in your presence. Amen.