Are you in unfamiliar territory today? Is there a new pain or symptom that has you anxious, and fearful of the unknown? Perhaps you sense a flare-up of a chronic condition, and you dread the suffering it will bring. Maybe you've finally gotten to a place of peace with your disability as your “new normal,” and lately it seems worse. How will you manage? How will you get through it if your condition decides to rev up its attack on your body? All these thoughts and fears can lead to anxiety if we are not careful with our thinking. It is vital that we think biblically in these moments.
Psalm 34 is one of my favorite Psalms of David. The subtitle says that it was written “when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away.” According to my study Bible, “Abimelech” is a term for a king or royalty. David had already run away from Saul, who was trying to kill him. He ran to King Achish of the Philistines, but Achish, knowing that David was a great warrior and king, wanted nothing to do with him. So, having run in terror from one frightening enemy, David found himself in the hands of another threat. As we battle our bodies, we may find ourselves in a similar place emotionally. Just when we think we've escaped one terror, we find ourselves in another; only this time, we may be in unfamiliar territory. If we are dealing with something new, we may have no idea how to proceed.
As I read Psalm 34, I thought of how crazy I get sometimes, dealing with the ups and downs of chronic pain. No need to pretend here! I often feel like I will lose my mind if one more thing happens! I wonder if David was a little crazy himself. Maybe it wasn't such a stretch for him to convince those people that he was crazy. Fear can do that to a person, and that is what David was: A person, just like you and me. If David actually did go insane, it must have been only for a moment, because when it was all over and he sat down to pen this Psalm, he wrote:
"I sought the LORD, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears."
David had a lot to be afraid of, but he says that the Lord delivered him from ALL his fears! Note that he doesn't say that the Lord delivered him from the things he was afraid of. He had many frightening dealings with Saul and others (1 Samuel 17,18 & 19). God did not remove David’s fearful enemies, but David knew that He was able to deliver him from the fear of those things. Like David, we may be tempted to fear the powerful forces that threaten us, but we do not have to give in to that fear. The Lord can take the teeth out of the scariest of beasts, and give us peace as we face the trial.
David spent much time in strange lands over the course of his life. He was often in danger unfamiliar territory, and we who suffer trials can glean much encouragement from his writing:
"The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them."
I love that word, "encamps". Our God knows that we are in unfamiliar territory wherever we go in this world, and that includes new pain, new symptoms, and new disease. No matter where this trial takes us, he will pull up stakes and go with us. In fact, our awesome God goes BEFORE us in this wilderness journey (Deut. 31:8)! We are always "camping" in this world, because it is not our home. But He is especially attentive to us when we are hurting, broken, or fearful along the way (Hebrews 4:16; 9:9; 23:4; 46:1-3; 119:50; 120:1 Psalm 147:3).
So, my dear suffering friend, rest assured that your God is near to you wherever you are. I have a friend who winters in a warmer state, and found out just after arriving there that she had an aggressive cancer and would have to begin her treatment there. She is far from her home and her church, but not from her God! She sends us frequent praise reports about how faithful and good God has been to her. She is an inspiration to me—in fact, she inspired this blog post! I hope that you and I, as we face various threats to our physical bodies, can imitate David and my friend by trusting God and sharing with others His blessings and goodness. The territory may be new and unfamiliar, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)!