Uncategorized

Terrified at Night – My Psalm 91 Story

Like many moms with little kids, my days were often routine and so were my nights. By the time evening rolled around, I was so tired…so, so tired. After a long day of chasing 4  little kids, feeding them, changing diapers and homeschooling, I was ready to call it a day. Simultaneously, I looked forward to the end of the day and dreaded it at the same time. My husband worked third shift so the bedtime scramble was all on me and then there were the hours of being alone at home at night. After putting the kids to bed, I would crash on the couch and flip on the TV to watch one of my favorite crime shows. I knew I should go to bed…tomorrow required energy and I didn’t have any left. It was so dark outside. On warm summer evenings with the windows open, through the thick muggy darkness echoed all kinds of sounds…cars humming along on the nearby highway mixed with engine decompressions from big rigs, crickets singing, our neighbors’s donkeys braying and stray cats fighting in the yard. It was its own whitenoise of summer. Finally after a show or two, I would think about going to bed myself.

Having just watched some crime show where a horrible crime or murder was commited,  just the thought of going to bed struck fear. After all, if I was asleep, I was not awake, and something could happen to my kids. Still, I knew I needed to go to bed, so I would quickly walk through the house carefully locking all the windows, checking to make sure the kid’s windows were locked tightly shut despite the warm mugginess, bolting doors, and turning off lights. Then after double checking again, I would go to my room. There, I would brush my teeth, wash my face, get out my 12 inch hunting knife, find my cell phone and crawl into bed. In the slight dip in the bed where my husband usually slept, I would tuck the knife and the phone and anxiously lay in the dark listening to the house creak. Often, a creak or two might sound like a footstep so I needed to get up to check again and again to make sure the kids were safe. Eventually, I would fall asleep. I had my knife…I had my phone…if someone tried to break in, I hoped it would be enough.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with fear. I was afraid of sickness, people, new situations, and pretty much all unknown situations. I managed by carefully controlling what I could and by staying so busy there wasn’t time to dwell on the underlying anxiety. Even though the Bible says “Fear not” 365 times, it did not translate to me- I had no idea what it looked like to”fear not.” Fear seemed logical and wise. After all, the world is full of danger and unknowns are everywhere. Making choices based on fear seemed safe and good.

In 2011, the Lord  brought Psalm 91 into my life and changed my life forever. I’m not sure where my mom got a copy of the book, Psalm 91-God’s Promise of Protection by Peggy Joyce Ruth. But when she did, she gave me a copy and said, “You have to read this book!” I’m not even sure why reading it appealed to me…or why I cracked it open because reading about a Psalm was not that interesting to me.

By the point she gave me that book, I was pretty cynical about the Bible. After years of listening to Bible teaching, sermons, Christian school & Christian college, I thought I had heard it all…and there was a lot that did not add up in my mind. I didn’t know what to believe. I didn’t know who to believe and I would barely touch a Bible because it seemed confusing and largely inapplicable to me. I had no idea what part of the Bible was for me.  I no longer knew what I believed- I knew that Jesus loved me and that He had died for my sins but nothing more. After all, the Bible was written by 40 authors over a couple thousand years to different groups. There were 2 covenants and something had shifted and I had no idea where I fell in the mix. What part of the Bible was for me? I had no idea! My take away from years of Bible school was that you needed to apply very specific study principals to know if the section you were reading was for you, for the Old Testament Jews, for the early church etc. That had brought me to a place where I just didn’t touch it because I didn’t know how to read it…or really even want to. All that is a story for another time…the point is…I wasn’t really interested in reading about a Psalm.

Anyway, I remember opening that book and starting to read. And of course Psalm 91 is printed right there in the first few pages. I started reading:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

As my eyes slid further down the page and settled on the words:

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,

Or of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

… and further down

For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

In a nutshell, my biggest fears were there…captured in black and white and somehow this was saying, I didn’t need to be afraid. Somehow this was saying I could rest…something I really truly wanted but could never have.

As I looked over that Psalm, so many words jumped off the page. I wasn’t sure what they meant or if it was really for me. But I wanted it. I wanted it for me. I wanted protection from pestilence (disease) and from terror, destruction, evil and plagues. I wanted all of that. I wanted to believe again that God would actually do all of those things. I wanted to be able to trust Him. 

And in that time…of reading and thinking and praying…hope was born!

As I read this book about Psalm 91, I was struck by the fact that the author had a similar background to myself and had struggled with all the same fears and questions. Her testimony of being set free from fear and learning to trust the Lord motivated me to keep reading and searching. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. I knew that if He did it before…He could do it again…and that was enough to begin a journey that indeed this Bible was for me.

Over the next few months, this passage became the only passage of Scripture that I read over and over. I studied, memorized it and quoted it regularly. In the evening, I started to change my habits…reading and watching uplifting things and quoting Psalm 91 when I was anxious before bed. As my mind became more peaceful, I didn’t need that knife next to me as I slept and sometimes the windows were left open. The cell phone was nearby but not necessarily right next to me. When my kids would ask to do something fun…but had potential dangers…I was able to let them do things without it always being an automatic “no.” And more than anything, that knot in my stomach dissolved. I have by no means perfected trust…but this was the beginning…hope that the promises of God were still true for me today. These habits have continued for nearly 10 years. When I am faced with a situation…something fearful or scary…I will automatically begin to quote Psalm 91 and actively hand it over to God in my mind. And when I do that…really hand it over despite my fear and the unknowns of the present…peace returns.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,

My God, in whom I trust!”

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper

And from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with His pinions,

And under His wings you may seek refuge;

His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,

Or of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side

And ten thousand at your right hand,

But it shall not approach you.

You will only look on with your eyes

And see the recompense of the wicked.

For you have made the Lord, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

 

My hope and plan is to take each verse and break down what it means. I so love this passage of the Word…it never gets old for me. It was like a life vest in the days when I was drowning and its one I’ve chosen to never take off. In future day and weeks, I will take verses and look at some of the Hebrew words, and the context…so we can see how good God really is and how much He loves us.