Week One: Whom then?
Read Psalms 27:1-3
As I read through the first part of Psalms 27, I am struck by the question the psalmist asks. If the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear? If the Lord is light, then surely I cannot fear the dark. If the Lord is my salvation, then surely I cannot fear the pits of hell, or that which is produced by it. As we dive into this new series on assurance and confidence in the face of fear and destruction, I want us to think about the things which make us afraid because, if I’m honest, these passages feel nice, like something I would embroider on a hand towel or superimpose on a poster in my living room. I can believe that the Lord is light so long as I don’t dwell too long on the scary things in the dark that I am afraid of. What I don’t want us to do is build up a false confidence, an assurance that is forged through apathy and ignorance. So, before you read these passages again, I want you to really think about whom it is you fear. What is it that you are afraid of?
Consequently, who are the enemies in your life that God promises you will be felled? What war is rising up against you that will not touch you, despite how close it will get?
Often, when we think of fear, we think of our biggest fears, our phobias. We think about the quickening of our heartbeat when we see a spider, the tightness in our chest when we look down from a great height. We think about the drop of our stomach when the number of your child’s school flashes across the screen of your phone. These are big and worthy fears.
I want us to also think about our small fears, though. I want us to think about our pervasive fears. Our fears born of habit and monotony. The fears we whisper to ourselves in our own throats and our own minds.
Personally, I’m not sure I can remember the last lasting time I wasn’t afraid. Just prior to sitting down to write the first draft of this I had read and prayed through the daily Common Prayer liturgy. Part of our daily reading was to finish Genesis 8, a chapter we had been in. I was struck by how it ended. Noah, his family, and a host of animals, have been riding in an ark across the flooded earth (it doesn’t matter in this space if you regard this story as historical history or cultural history). The Lord makes a promise in verses 21 and 22:
“The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in (Their) heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
‘As long as the earth endures,Genesis 8:21-22 NIV
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.'”
I would feel better about these verses in the midst of my fear if I looked around the world and saw things to fear that God was afflicting on the world. But I don’t. As I take inventory of the things I am afraid of in this moment, it is not things of God at all but things that people have done to the world and to each other. At the heart of most of my fears, I think, is a fear of others.
I am afraid of a world that is ending, crumbling under the weight of residents who do not care what they do. I am afraid of guns which are carried by people who can hate as fiercely as they can love. I am afraid of a virus in the lungs of my neighbor.
I am also afraid of the loss of people, that when my roommate moves away in a few short months, nothing will be the same. I am afraid that my college friends will one day grow roots and they won’t need each other anymore and we will no longer be friends. I am afraid of what social media guru, musician, and TikTok influencer Lacy Abercrombie called “the greatest of the Enemy’s lies” in a recent video on addition: if someone knew me, really knew me, they would have no choice but to flee in revulsion.
And when I am really truly honest, which I do try to be in this space, I am afraid also of myself. I am fearful of my skin and what it can do to someone, scared of making the world less habitable than more. I am scared of my own apathy which festers more often than courage. It is perhaps apathy I fear the most. Apathy does nothing, is nothing, but it is easy. If two people walk over a pit of snakes, we may be tempted to call them brave (or perhaps reckless or stupid) but if one does not care if they live or die, does not care about the dangers of snakes, this is not really assured confidence despite the outward outcomes looking the same.
This week, spend some time getting uncomfortable. What scares you? Who scares you? What do you need trampled? And then ask yourself if a God who is unending light and salvation can step between you and the things you fear.
Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota and sells poetry art here. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page).
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