Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Psalm 91 In The Face Of Cancer

I find great hope and solace in the Psalms and they have taken on a deeper, richer meaning for me ever since 2008 when melanoma ripped into my life. Psalm 23, particularly, spoke to my soul in ways that reach far beyond the normal "funeral" rendering. But I must admit, Psalm 91 gave me troubles.

I had a wonderful melahomey who used to sign off his Facebook posts/comments with "Psalm 91." And every time he did, I would go back and read this and shake my head. Here he was, living with stage 4 melanoma, and clinging to Psalm 91. I hate to say that it took me, ME!, a while to get it.

I had fallen into the somewhat modern trap of, temporarily, forgetting what David, and all the Psalmists knew. What the Israelites knew and took for granted: God's promises stand. And they stand in the present and in the future and because God always keeps His promises, they were quite comfortable, and happy, to mix them up. Take for instance verse 3. They trusted that God would protect them from deadly disease. And yet, they, like us, got/get deadly diseases. That just didn't sound like "protection" to my ears. My friend cherished that verse. My friend with deadly stage 4 melanoma. That killed him. Why didn't God protect him?

But you know what? He's protected from deadly disease now. My friend knew in his soul what I needed to remember, and that is that God keeps His promises. God has all eternity. We're the ones who think in terms of a "lifetime". We live in a fallen world inhabited by deadly viruses, bacteria, diseases, wars, pestilence, etc. But a world awaits us where those things don't exist. They aren't merely "absent." They do not exist. They aren't part of the vocabulary.

My friend, and many, many others around the world, suffered from, lived with, and thrived in spite of, melanoma, cancer, deadly disease. He looked forward, without fear, to a time when suffering would not be part of his life. He trusted God to keep His promise and let him find rest, refuge, and safety. He knew that when his time came and death was at the door that God would protect him from its final ravages and send for him and protect his journey. He knew he would be rescued. And he would be rewarded.

You know what? Melanoma got his body. True enough. It never, never, not once touched his soul.

I leave you with Psalm 91 from the New Living Translation. God's promises stand. And they are for the present and they are for the future. Bless the Lord, o my soul. O my soul.


Psalm 91 (New Living Translation)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”