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Psalm 91

In yesterday’s Celtic Daily Prayer readings, there was a verse from Psalm 91. I read the whole psalm. Quite lovely.

But it raises questions for me. I don’t know what to do with such verses. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

“If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.” vs 9-10

“‘Because they love me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue them; I will protect them, for they acknowledge my name. They will call on me, and I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will deliver them and honour them.'” vs 14-15

Shit happens. Life is unfair. Harm comes our way.

As a young teen, I prayed every day for protection. Some nights I’d stay up as long as I could reading my Bible, believing that if I was in God’s presence I’d be safe. I wasn’t.

What do you do with that?

In some ways, God protected the most precious thing I have – my faith. So do psalms like Psalm 91 refer to a protection of only the soul?

Or perhaps God has saved me from a whole lot worse? Indeed, there are others who have had to struggle with way more than I have. But – is that a sufficient answer to the problem of suffering? yeah, i know you’ve gone through a rough time, but hey! just think of how bad it could have been in God didn’t come in?

Or maybe I didn’t love God enough. But my prayers as a 13 year old were earnest – it is kinda problematic to say that my daily prayers and reading scripture and trying to live according to God’s ways as a 13 year old is insufficient.

Maybe God has a purpose in mind. A bigger plan that I’m just a pawn in. But – is that what faith is for – to simply be used for God’s glory and to be sacrificed for the bigger plan? I suppose Christ is our example – he was rejected, despised, crucified. This is the Christ I follow. I like Paul’s words that in our suffering we participate in the suffering of Christ. But – that’s a very different theology than “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (vs 11-12) You know, I’d rather God let me strike my foot against a stone (pretty benign) and he get busy in other areas of my life!

Maybe God is teaching me, perfecting me, refining me like Gold in the fire? Indeed, I have learned a lot and been shaped by my suffering. And it has been through suffering that I have come to know the love of God. But again – this sounds more like God allowing suffering for a greater purpose than saving me from it.

The psalm beautifully expresses something that brought me comfort and rest yesterday…. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” vs 4. I’m ok with saying God is with you in the storm and will help you deal with the flaming arrows, deadly pestilence, fowler’s snare, the terror of the night. That he will bring me comfort and rest. But “surely he will save you”? that language perplexes me.

I remember a song of my youth by Hocus Pick, a Canadian group that didn’t last long but had some pretty hilarious yet profound music. One song was “If I was God for a day”. I don’t remember the lyrics well, but basically it listed a bunch of things the singers would do if they were God for a day. And it ended in a perplexed cry – “God must have a plan – I guess I don’t understand”

Maybe I just don’t understand.

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