A Psalm for Danny
If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.
When I was thirteen years old, I invited my friend Danny to my church's winter camp. Though he was not a Christian, he and his parents were glad to have Danny join me for a weekend in the snowy mountains. From previous winter camp experiences, I knew that the Saturday evening speaker would explain the Gospel, ending with an invitation for people to receive Christ. I hoped and prayed that Danny would come to know Jesus at camp.
Sure enough, on Saturday evening, the speaker talked about what Jesus did for us on the cross. And, sure enough, after his message he invited all of us to close our eyes and bow our heads. Then, he encouraged people who wanted to accept Christ to raise their hands. I desperately yearned to see what Danny was doing, but I did not peek. Instead, I prayed as hard as I ever had prayed, asking the Lord to draw Danny to himself.
On the way back from the meeting hall to our cabin, my counselor asked me, "Did you see what Danny did during the meeting?" "No," I answered, afraid that he did nothing. "Danny raised his hand, Mark. He accepted Christ." Joy flooded my soul, a joy I had never known before. I was so excited that Danny had received Jesus.
That night, our cabin got together and prayed. To my astonishment, Danny prayed out loud. "Thank you, Jesus," he began, "that I believe in you and am saved." What could be better than this, I thought to myself. Then, Danny continued, "And thank you that since I am a Christian now, nothing bad will ever happen to me." At that moment, I felt as if I had swallowed a rock. I knew that Christians experienced hard things. I had seen this and experienced it a bit myself. I was worried that Danny would give up on Jesus when his life got hard.
Danny's theology, however immature, wasn't completely off base. In fact, if you read Psalm 91, it sounds rather like what Danny prayed on that winter night. This psalm celebrates God's protection. God will "rescue you from every trap" (v. 3) and "protect you from deadly disease" (v. 3). "No evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home" (v. 10). If this psalm was the only biblical psalm, then we'd be inclined to agree with Danny that "nothing bad will ever happen to me." And when bad things happen, we'd figure that the Bible is simply wrong and give up on it or on God or on both.
But when we read Psalm 91 in the context of the whole Psalter, we realize that Scripture isn't teaching the simplistic theology of a brand new believer. There are plenty of psalms that lament the suffering in life, even doubting God's faithfulness. Psalm 91, however, celebrates God's protection. It encourages us to remember how often God protects us in this life, even as it points to the ultimate protection in the age to come. Psalm 91 reminds us to rejoice over God's goodness to us and to put our trust in him for our eternal protection.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you feel when you read Psalm 91? Do you feel encouraged? Hopeful? Concerned? Angry? Relieved? How are we supposed to read and pray this psalm when our lives are hard?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you, indeed, for your protection. Thank you for all the ways you have kept me from evil. Thank you for sheltering me, hiding me, covering me. Most of all, thank you for delivering me from death, not physical death in this life, but from ultimate death and separation from you. Thank you for the gift of eternal life through Christ. Thank you that nothing in all creation can separate me from your love. Amen.
Coming to Terms With Our Limitations
Are you struggling to face the chasm between your dreams and your not-so-glamorous circumstances? Then our series Coming to Terms with Our Limitations is for you. If you or someone you know needs encouragement along these lines, join us on The High Calling.