Hearing the words of Psalm 91 brought me back to a few realizations. The Psalm begins and ends with a focus, not on our troubles, but rather on our relationship with God, namely that our safety comes from dwelling in his shelter and holding fast to him, and that our job is to look to him for protection and deliverance.
This past year, my seven-year-old son has been plagued by nightmares. Though he had experienced them many times before, they increased in regularity and we noticed him becoming anxious as bedtime approached. He became fixated on my prayers for good dreams, re-checking if I had already prayed, insisting that I do it a certain way—only when he was in bed—and even posing that these prayers might be causing more nightmares.
Eventually, he shifted from trying to prevent the nightmares to grappling with the reality that they would likely happen. One evening as he was peppering me with suggestions that would allow him to avoid going to bed, I began to sing “On Eagles Wings” to him.1 It is a song I grew up hearing at family weddings and funerals that included the words of Psalm 91:
You need not fear the terror of the night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day, …
Though thousands fall about you, near you it shall not come.
“But I am afraid!” he responded, “and I don’t want to go to sleep. What if it happens again?” And these words came to me: “Our nightmares have the same ending as Jesus’ story.
His death was like a nightmare, but did it last? What will happen to the things in your dreams when you wake up?” My son, who’s been hearing the words of The Jesus Storybook Bible since his birth, replied, “they will be gone forever, and everything sad will become untrue.”2
For some reason, this thought hadn’t occurred to me before. Like my son, I had vacillated between strategizing ways to prevent his suffering (monitoring his exposure to scary media, trying to address his anxiety about the day’s events as it came up, etc.) and ultimately feeling powerless to protect him. Hearing the words of Psalm 91 brought me back to a few realizations (ones I speak with counselees about all day long!)