Scripture: Psalm 27
Key verse: (1) “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”
Reflection: Whom shall I fear? That’s the question of the Psalmist. I can’t think of a bigger problem in the world today than fear. We see it in politics. We see it in culture. We see it in the media. We see it in the church. We see it in ourselves.
Fear and anxiety are nothing new for human beings. They’ve been around since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and found themselves hiding in the bushes. In his book, Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition, Edward Farley suggests that within the three spheres of human existence—the personal, the interpersonal, and the social—there is an intrinsically tragic character. At every level of our existence, we are vulnerable. As individuals we are vulnerable to physical injury, disease, pain, and death. All of these are named in Psalm 27. Relationships with other people require us to be intentionally vulnerable. Opening ourselves to another human being, we are vulnerable to rejection and betrayal. On a societal level, in a world of limited resources we are vulnerable to enemies who might seek to do us harm. This vulnerability, at every level of our existence, creates intrinsic fear.
Fear is a dangerous thing. It can lead to tragic consequences. When fear controls our decision-making, we will justify doing just about anything to protect ourselves and our own interests. As Farley explains it, “the intrinsic vulnerability and tragic character of the human condition are the background and origin of the dynamics of evil.”
What does faith look like in the midst of our anxiety? The exhortations of Psalm 27 guide us in answering this question. Wait for the Lord. Be Strong. Take Courage. Wait for the Lord. Farley’s teacher Paul Tillich is the champion for the courage of faith in the face of chronic anxiety. In his sermon, The Courage to Be, Tillich writes: “The courage to be is an ethical act in which people affirm their own being in spite of those elements of their existence which make them vulnerable …The courage which takes this threefold anxiety into itself must be rooted in a power of being that is greater than the power of oneself and the power of one’s world.” That power of being is God. It is the Lord alone who is our light, our salvation, our stronghold. No political party, no human ideology, not even any theological system born of human thought, but God alone who is our refuge and our strength. Therefore, we will not fear.
There is nothing easy about such faith in the face of the fears that possess our world. The Psalmist is not naïve about this, and neither should we be. In the face of all there is to fear in our world, let us join with the psalmist in his mantra: “Wait for the Lord. Be strong. Take courage. Wait for the Lord.”
Prayer: “In the midst of a world where there is much to fear, grant me faith to be still and know that you are God, and you are with us. Help me to wait for you, be strong, and take courage. Amen.”
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].