Conquering Fear (Psalm 27: 1, 4-9)
Lectio. 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? … One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon 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 dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and 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. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.
Mediatio. What is most striking about the selection is what it chooses to omit. The psalm is the prayer of a soldier in fear of his life and therefore in a constant struggle to keep from falling into panic and depression. The man in peril needs a comrade-in-arms, one whose face is known, one who helps, one who is true. He affirms his belief that he will see God’s goodness “in the land of the living” -- here and now, not in some nebulous afterlife. The passages that have the greatest immediacy and fervor have been removed to create the selection. Although one can feel the intensity of the search for God in what remains, the sense of God is more ethereal than in what has been excised.
Even so, the psalm is extraordinarily powerful. The first line of the selection is draws heavily on the language of Genesis. The word for light ‘owr, perhaps more at “dawn” or “illumination” is the same word as is used in the passage, “Let there be light”. The word for “fear” is yare’, meaning “reverence”, “awe”, “terrify”: This is the same word as in Genesis, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid.” The word for “life”, chay, also means “green”, “flowing” and “appetite”. The same word is used repeatedly in Genesis 1 to describe creation. And the plea for God to show his face recalls God’s intimate relationship with Moses, who He knew “face to face”.
Contemplatio. Adoration. There is no peace but the Lord’s peace, no certainty but the Lord’s certainty, no strength but the Lord’s strength. Everything else is a delusion, quickly punctured by danger. Confession. We search for the safety of the rock not from wisdom, but from fear. Thanksgiving. If our search is successful, nothing is too difficult for us. The Apostles faced trials and death with aplomb because they dwelled in God’s peace. In submission to Your will, we genuinely become the rulers of our own fate. Supplication. So, help us find you, Lord. Do not simply hear us, but answer us. Do not simply answer us, but meet us face to face.
You bear my shield, Lord
You shelter me from the blows of my enemies.
At night, when fear grips me,
You clasp my shoulder.
You still my trembling.
In darkness, you are the starlight.
When danger searches for me,
You are a sheltering fog.
I ask only one thing of you.
Deliver me from this life of anguish and fear
into your Kingdom, where I will dwell in perfect safety.