Psalms is a book of the Bible many find comfort in –– it contains both hope and lament. God particularly placed Psalm 91 on my heart last fall and has brought me back to it every couple of weeks. It’s pretty much tattooed on my heart––I actually bought a sticker that says “under his wings you will find refuge” for my old laptop. I’ll eventually get one for my new Mac.
I pray and reflect over this verse quite frequently. My soul feels at rest each time I read it because I imagine God literally covering me with wings of protection. It reminds me that, like Job, God has his hand over my life at all times and will not let destruction rule over it. Joy comes in the morning, even when the darkest nights drag on.
Psalm 91 New International Version (NIV)
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
I believe God especially drew me to this verse because I’ve struggled with immense fear due to my illness. My health became so critical at one point that I barely ate anything and I actually thought I would die. Instead of finding refuge in God, I became a victim of depression and anxiety, which devastated my emotional health. Once I started letting go of fear and giving it to God, I realized that I felt his peace. I didn’t feel it before because I tried to deal with things on my own instead of trusting in his power.
Verse one taught me that those who find refuge in God will receive peace and protection. I suffered greatly from anxiety attacks this past semester, to the point where I went to the emergency room twice. Thankfully, I am learning strategies to deal with that and have discovered the power of fear. The birdlike imagery of him covering his children with wings in verses four and five comforts my soul. It’s what I think of anytime I experience anxiety attacks. I just think of feathers wrapping around me.
Verses 11-12 brought me to tears the first time I read through them. God’s angels literally protect us. That’s incredible. God is truly omniscient and constantly watches over us. Have you ever thought about the fact that you may have personally encountered an angel? Now, if you don’t believe me, remember what Hebrews 13:2 says:
I’ve heard incredible stories about angel encounters––people stopping their car while driving, meeting a random stranger at a gas station who leaves only a few minutes later, etc;. Don’t disregard their presence because secular society discounts the supernatural.
This psalm also reminds us that God rescues us because he’s a good Father and loves us. He doesn’t require anything else except our love. That may sound odd at first, but consider when you were little and your parents asked you if you wanted help with something. You probably said no at one point because you wanted to prove you could take care of yourself, then later went up to them and actually asked for help. God’s the same way––he doesn’t force love and respects the free will he gave us.
Notice verse 15 –– God will answer those who call on him. Yes he will answer, but remember we may not receive the answer we want. I constantly asked God why he wouldn’t heal me. He told me, “rest, child.” And yet I didn’t truly rest until a couple months ago. I simply didn’t want the answer he gave me. Our pride sometimes gets in the way of us realizing that God actually responded.
God protects those who find refuge in him and he honors them. Think of Joseph, Daniel, David, Esther, all people whom God protected because they sought the Lord’s guidance and acknowledged his sovereignty. That’s how I knew that illness would not completely overtake my body. Although I experience sickness as a result of living in a broken world, God has preserved my life. In addition, those who seek his refuge will experience his overwhelming peace and no longer remain a slave of fear.
As the closing verse states, God blesses people who call him Lord with a long life. He is the only thing that truly satisfies us.
Overall, this verse has helped me understand that God is on our side, even when things crash and burn around us. He is the only constant in a world of chaos. He is in control and we have to relinquish our innate desire for control over our lives. God knows what’s best, even if we can’t understand that at first, and his light defends us from darkness.
Reflection: How have you experienced God’s protection? Where do you usually flee for refuge?