I will be with them in trouble. . .
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 is part of the lectionary for the first Sunday of Lent. It would be easy to read these verses and focus on God as a protective bubble, insulating us from anything difficult or painful. We would like such a God!
This text actually connects with the gospel lesson for the week, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). In fact, Satan quotes from this psalm as he seeks to tempt Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple.
But this verse about God being with us in trouble fits my experience more accurately than angels not allowing me to trip on stones. Refuge is not so much about God being a protective bubble as it is that God is with us when the storms of life come and we must ride them out for a period of time—often of unknown duration.
It can be tempting in the hard season of life to look for a reason for its occurrence, to connect cause and effect so that we can make sense out of our suffering. What I have learned though, through my own hard seasons, is that there isn’t always a clear reason for my suffering. I can become lost in my anguish or I can grab hold of God in my anguish. Like an anchor that keeps me rooted, I may find that I still am battered by storm and waves, but in the depts. of my being, I know I am not alone.
One of Lent’s great gifts, in my opinion, is that if we enter it thoughtfully and intentionally, it matures our faith. To spend forty days contemplating Jesus’ sacrificial love for us as a model of how we sacrifice for others, should burst the bubble of God as protective container. But a God who is with us in trouble, who suffers both for us and with us—such a faith tells me that belief is no promise of exemption from suffering. The promise, rather, is that God is with us in our trouble, in our pain and turbulence. That’s a promise I can celebrate.