Last week at our dinner for the community I preached on Psalm 46, which begins, "God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea." That psalm had really been working in my heart that week as I had wrestled internally with questions of calling and direction, especially, "Be still and know that I am God."
As I preached, a woman who is a regular at the meal walked to the front and stood just below me, coughing a strange, disruptive cough. It wasn't a cough where she was sick - it was very intentional, and someone in the crowd said, "That's a demon." Not knowing what to do and lacking proper intercessory backup, I stopped and prayed quietly, and then finished up. That certainly rattled me.
Then a group of people showed up late for the dinner (we shut the doors at 6:20) and wanted to eat, and we usually don't serve those who come late. Among the group was a guy who has been fairly beligerent in recent weeks due to his involvement in a religion that is very anti-white (not Nation of Islam) and who thinks that our preaching each week is full of lies. As I foolishly engaged him in a small "discussion" of his theology, I was more and more frustrated, and finally I told him that in order to come and eat at the dinner, he needed to stop leading "Bible studies" at his table while the speaker up front was preaching. This didn't sit well with him, and as I walked off he said angrily, "That's OK, because your day is coming. Your day is coming." That shook me more.
Regular readers know that one of my biggest struggles in life is fear, and that fear often overwhelms and even cripples me. That was the case that night as I struggled to think about anything except what he meant by that threat and how he might carry it out. I called a good friend to talk, and when he heard what I had preached on that night he said, "Remember when Jesus was taken to the desert to be tempted? The first thing that Satan attacked was the word that Jesus had just received from the Father. God had just told Jesus that He was His beloved son, and Satan attacks with, 'If you are the Son of God.'" He reminded me that I had just preached on God being a present help in trouble and in the face of fear, and I had been attacked both during the preaching a just after it as well.
Psalm 46 is a great Psalm and there are times when I feel like things in my soul are crashing all around like the mountains, and I need to hear that God is in control. But for me and many of my friends in the church, it's not often that we are really afraid in a physical sense. We have fences and alarm systems and safe neighborhoods and we don't take many risks, if we are honest (and just because I live in Glenwood doesn't mean that I exclude myself from this statement). Moving Psalm 46 from a nice message for "those people" who are on the streets and facing danger all the time into the realm of my own personal, lived theology is harder than I thought. Do I really believe God is my help and my refuge? Am I willing to be still and know that He is God when my mind is racing with worry and irrational fear? I found myself praying Psalm 46 all day Thursday, calling my soul to believe the truth. I'd much rather get to test and live out messages about grace and mercy and hope than messages about trusting God as my shield and safety. But He knew that my night was going to go that way and this is a part of His process of maturing me, growing me in dependence on Christ for the glory of God. Cooperating might be hard, but it is good.