BCC Staff: In this post, Jeff Forrey continues his investigation of how Psalm 91’s claim, “no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent” should be understood by Christians who’ve experienced a tragedy, such as an unexpected divorce or death in the family. In his last post, he noted how the Book of Psalms does not neglect the reality of trials in the lives of God’s people, and so Psalm 91:10 must be understood in this larger context. In this post, he returns to Psalm 91.
God Will Protect Us from Difficult Trials
God also will remind us repeatedly throughout our lives of his gracious love and concern for us. There will be some tragedies that we are spared from because God will intervene. For example: God might startle us as we drift asleep behind the wheel on the highway. Or, God might use weather to prevent a trip that otherwise would have been very dangerous.
We cannot necessarily know in advance when those times might occur, but passages like Psalm 91 teach us that it is always appropriate to pray for the Lord’s protection. And when we lift those prayers to him, we must do so trusting that whatever happens is an opportunity to draw near to him. When we draw near to him, he draws near to us (James 4:8). Drawing near to God during times of hardship rests on one single conviction: Nothing touches our lives that is not first tested by God’s love for us. Again, Paul writes with considerable passion about this truth:
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39)
A Temptation of the Double-Edged Psalm
Every trial we encounter in our lives is both an intentional test designed to strengthen our faith in God’s good plan for our lives and a potential temptation used by Satan to weaken our faith in God’s plan. Jesus faced this situation after his baptism:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted/tested by the devil. … the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:1, 5–7)
Notice how Satan used Psalm 91 to tempt Jesus to put God to the test. Although the psalmist had written to celebrate God’s protection for his children, Satan twisted the psalm to be a cynical test of God’s love. In essence, Satan challenged God’s public announcement of Jesus as his dear son (at his baptism, in Matthew 3). But Jesus did not give in to the Tempter’s blasphemous suggestion. Jesus trusted what his Heavenly Father said about him and was willing to follow his Father’s plan—all the way to the cross (Matthew 26:38–39; Philippians 2:8).
There is a crucial difference between asking for God’s protection, trusting him for the outcome, and demanding God’s protection, testing his love and goodness. Jesus understood the psalmist’s intention, and that also enabled him to recognize Satan’s evil motivation. Jesus’ example reminds us that trusting God’s plan for our lives is necessary, even though that plan might involve difficult trials.
Join the Conversation
How have you helped counselees in the midst of difficult trials understand God’s relationship to what was going on?