Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
I have been offering encouragement lately to hopefully help allay some frustration and anger amid this, the middle of an unprecedented time in history where, on all fronts–and at the speed of (insert current number here: 5? 6? 8?) G–we seem hurtling toward some kind of real existential, perhaps even apocalyptic, cataclysmic events. Stress level: high.
My hope is always that by rising above ground zero to view what’s happening through a Christian lens, this can help all of us to maintain clarity of mind, emotions, and spirit.
I ended yesterday’s post with a link to devotionals on the all-time, “hard times” go-to Psalm (#91). It occurs to me today that my thoughts on verses 9-10 might be a good insert, and pause, at this juncture.
I hope this encourages–and calms–you, too, for our God is not “asleep, up there, on the job,” He still hears and answers our prayers (according to His timing) no matter how dark and stormy things are playing out just now, down here.
Indeed, He knows the end from the beginning.
And the News is still Good.
Hang in there, and I will, too.
Psalm 91 in the Midst of the Fray: Verses 9-10…
Originally posted November 2013
(For the complete, free, downloadable booklet of all the Psalm 91 devotionals, click here.)
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. (Psalm 91:9-10)
But what about if we believe and pray and try our very best to stay close to the Lord and to do the right things and when we blow it we try to quickly repent and get back on track but bad things still happen?
UPDATE 8/19: or what about in the case of current national and global socio-political events that seem to be winding up to irreversible crises despite efforts by many to allay and/or reverse them?
Or when the answer to prayer seems to take forever?
And then we DO feel harmed and disaster DOES loom mighty near—or actually enters—our “tent”?
And if that weren’t distressing enough, the long line of “Job’s friends” arrive who are sure this or that disaster is all our fault, we did, in fact, blow it, and/or there must be some hidden sin we haven’t confessed, and so on.
But wait, there’s more:
Or somebody else comes along and explains, slowly and carefully, in love, that God selects cancer or bankruptcy or a broken heart or whatever else specifically for us because He wants to teach us something like patience or humility.
And even more:
Or yet another insists we didn’t pray right or believe right or engage in the right form of prayer or exercise enough faith…
But consider: what if God DOES hear our prayer and DOES send help but TIMING is part of the equation?
Step away from the time clock with me for a moment.
Eternity is one of those ideas humans are always grappling with. Is it real? Do we understand it only “by faith?” Or do mathematicians and physicists also have answers?
Though I am not saying I understand Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, i.e., “time speeds up or slows down depending on how fast one thing is moving relative to something else” , by whittling it down to common level of thought I think we can draw an analogy about eternity based on the idea.
If, as the theory might suggest, the faster a person travels the more slowly he or she ages we might deduce that at some point aging would cease altogether: eternity? At least this may be a way to understand eternity.
While here in the slow lane we continue to keep our eye on the clock, someone hurtling through space at speeds of, say, 25,000 miles-per-hour may ultimately no longer need a clock. And yet, what is happening just now for us inching our way forward on terra firma would in another sense simultaneously happen for the space traveler who remains near-stationary in time.
How does this relate to Psalm 91:9-10?
What if when we pray, God does hear, He does answer? It’s just that we who live down here in slow motion do not realize the answer just now in our time frame?
Or perhaps something else altogether but still time-bound stalls the manifestation of the answer to our request. Consider:
In the tenth chapter of Daniel, it is recorded that the “Prince of Persia” (generally regarded as a demon), restrained the angel Gabriel from bringing the answer to Daniel’s prayer for twenty-one days.
Luke chapter eight features a woman “who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years”—and, the verse notes, “but no one could heal her” until, that is, Jesus came along, circa 30-33 A.D.
And, at the apex of history, consider a babe born in a manger “in the fullness of time”—though mankind was surely in need and “in plead,” you might put it, beforehand.
At the right time, in the right place, consider how God answered those prayers.
In His Time
In the spiritual sense, God’s Word reveals that, like Einstein’s theory suggests, we are at once ticking through our literal time on earth, while also (already) “seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus (see Ephesians 2:6).
We can at once trace our origin back to our physical birthday while at the same time we were in God’s mind “from the foundation of the world” (see Ephesians 1:4).
In short, taking our idea of time out of the equation, we can simultaneously plead our case and give praise for the answer, even as God, Who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) “works all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28) in His idea of time.
Sometimes the answer to prayer comes in the “now” we theorize and perceive; sometimes it manifests later, in the “Divine Now,” as it were. You might say we are at once believing for—and also resting in—the safety of God’s abode where all prayer is answered, faith, that “substance of things hoped for […] evidence of things not seen“ (Hebrews 11:1)–the entrance.
While physicists continue to hone their hypotheses and believers still eagerly await the fruition of the promises embedded in the Psalm, in a (spiritual) galaxy far, far away yet as near as the prayer whispered in the midst of some trial by night or tribulation by day the One Who designed space, time, physicists– and you and me–invites us still, through faith, to enter His refuge.
And, He, “up there,” also gifts us with that very faith we need to await the exact day and hour of the manifestation of the outcome “down here”.
For All Time
Maybe it ultimately turns out that Job’s friends were right: our trial or tribulation can be chalked up to the usual suspects: the world, the flesh and/or the devil.
Maybe it ultimately turns out that in the middle of waiting for the answer to our prayer we did learn (insert virtue, here), an added blessing.
Or maybe while we waited, God, in His timeless sovereignty, accomplished something for us that we might not understand, cannot possibly comprehend, until that day when time ceases entirely and eternity shines without shadow before us.
And just maybe we will finally—and only—comprehend fully what sorrows us now the day He wipes away every tear of doubt, fear, frustration, and heartache for us—and our friends, too—for all time, every promise fulfilled, heartache eased, and grief dissipated.
A refuge, indeed.
Post edited and updated.
Image of watch from Wikimedia commons