The Psalm that inspired me most when I started reading through the Bible regularly as a twelve-year-old several decades ago was Psalm 27. Its first words sparked confidence in a gangly, unsure preteen, and continue to do so for the sometime preacher, retired military chaplain, and occasional blogger he has become:
“The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid” (Psalm 27:1-2).
Believing in God and learning his way is key to confidence. As the psalm continues, it becomes clear that confidence does not derive merely from academic study of the Scriptures. It develops in the arena of life, actively engaging with opponents who attack faith and values. It matures in gathering with other worshippers; it grows in seeking time to focus and meditate on the presence of the Lord. It survives rejection from friends and family whom one would expect to be encouragers. The psalmist says,
“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may swell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his swelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD” (Psalm 27:4-6).
In America in 2021, public health concerns limit the ability of many to congregate with other believers in a place of worship. We “meet together” by watching live streams of sermon and song; we commune with bread and wine (or grape juice) in our homes, remembering those who also do the same around the world as we eat and drink. We pledge our faith in circumstances that cause stress for some and provoke denial from others. In America in 2021, many struggle to believe God, or anyone else, for that matter. They question whether truth may be discerned and perceive conspiracy behind responses to a health threat or in statements by politicians. Most of us (earlier this month, sadly, the U. S. Congress was an exception) will not be surrounded and besieged by our enemies in a way that threatens our physical safety or survival. We may become ill or be involved in a vehicular collision that injures us. We may argue with acquaintances on social media or in public parks.
We have lost rituals, places, and associates who gave us confidence; we have lost the inclination to trust. We doubt, we object, we wander in confusion. It’s time to remember how to believe, how to think, how to discern. It’s time to remember whom to seek:
“Hear my voice when I call LORD; be merciful to me an answer me. My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper” (Psalm 27:7-9a)
There are people who are angry now that they hear that their preferred candidate lost an election. Others are ecstatic, still others are relieved because of the same election results. A political leader, a source of news whatever the media, even family members cannot bring balance back to life or restore fully the soul of America or any nation. Only a healthy faith in God’s providence can renew our confidence.
“Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do no turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:9b-13).
In this time, most of us have little that we can control. We can control how we think, how we act, and where we go. We can control whom we trust. We can choose peace and forgiveness. We can try to learn the way of the Lord. For some of us (me included), it is hard to be patient. We want results now. We do not understand why, when we have studied something carefully and reached a conclusion, others dare to disagree. For us, for all who seek confidence and hope, the final words of Psalm 27 remind us pointedly:
“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).
• Quotations from the Bible are from the New International Version 2011.