Encouragement from Psalms 91

In times of crisis, whether global catastrophe like September 11th, or personal trauma such as death, sickness or even the loss of a job, where do you find yourself running? Do you find yourself putting God in the backseat as you struggle with the wheel to get things back on track, paying Him lip-service, but little else?

It has been said that it is easy to trust God and rejoice when things are going well, but it is in the time of trial that our true faith shows through for what it is. Adversity truly does introduce us to ourselves. But God is good, whether your faith is strong like Elijah, or fledgling like the father who cried with tears, “Lord, I believe: help thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24).

The 91st chapter of Psalms is a beautiful and encouraging passage that offers every honest, uncertain, fearful, and broken-hearted pilgrim a glimpse of God’s promises to the obedient. Looking at this Psalm, one begins to understand that God does not restrict His people just for the sake of it, to exercise control in order to gratify Himself, but rather it is to bless us and to keep us from the wiles of the Devil and ourselves.

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” (Ps. 91:1-2). To be protected by God, it is necessary for the Christian to live and make his abode in this secret place of the Lord. This “secret place”, like the “strait (narrow) gate”, depicts a position that is not just stumbled upon, but rather, one that is sought out with purpose and desire. It is the road less traveled and less appealing to the human eye. Yet there is peace and rest for our souls here, even though the storms may be swirling overhead. This is the rest – the “pearl of great price”- we must all spiritually strive to enter into, because one thing is certain: nothing on this Earth can even come close to providing this security.

Like Paul, dwelling in this secret place allows one to genuinely say, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Phil. 4:11-12).

Though the rich man’s wealth may be his strong city, we are to put our trust in the Lord. Remembering times past, whether it was Joseph or Gideon, Joshua or Daniel, Peter or Paul, it was this fortress, made without hands and invisible to the eye, that made the mightiest castle look as feeble as a tent in comparison. But, we must always remember … this promise of the Lord is made only as long as we truly abide in His ways.

Of course, to paint everything with the same broad brush would be unrealistic. Though there are thousands of examples of miraculous deliverances, there are also several instances of physical tragedy. Many an agnostic, ungodly individual, or perhaps even a perplexed Christian may query the promises of Psalm 91 in light of the stoning death of Stephen and other Christians who were brutally martyred for their faith. Did they step out from under His wings? Did God abandon them? Absolutely not. In fact, many of us will spend our entire lives aspiring to the level of many of these men and women.

God knows the path for each and every one of us, and it is up to Him to deliver us physically or deliver us from this world through the passage of death. After all, “Who hath known the mind of the Lord or been his counselor?” (Rom. 11:24). Through Psalm 91, we understand that God is in control and that He will be with us in trouble. Just as some stopped the mouths of lions and escaped the edge of the sword, others were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned and slain. But one thing is for sure: “…whether we live or die … we are the Lord’s.” (Rom. 14:8).

Looking inwardly at your own life, the reality of Psalm 91 comes to the fore. How many times have you been delivered “from the snare of the fowler”, a problem situation, and may not even have recognized it until afterwards? (v. 3). How many times have you almost felt Him giving “his angels charge over thee” as you struggled through a crisis? (v. 11). Thoughts of near misses like car accidents and other close calls that could have been much worse, or even fatal, immediately spring to mind. In other cases you had to endure trial upon trial like Joseph, but as God promised to those that call upon Him: “I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble.” (v. 15). At the latter end, though it looked like evil all the way, God meant it for good.

Oftentimes we stray from the fortress – the way of life – God has called us to, and out from under His covering. If we are elect, like the prodigal son, sooner or later we will discover that only under the shadow of His wings can we find this rest for our souls. To live in sin and rebellion will remove us from the protection of God’s powerful wings, leaving us as meat for every beast of the field and exposed to the harshness of this world’s elements.

Let us remember that our faith and our lifestyle are what determine where we live – in the secret place of the most High or not.