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?
There are several psalms that I always have at the ready whenever I visit parishioners in hospitals. Psalm 27 is one of them. The very first verse should give you a clue as to why. It is a psalm of absolute trust and confidence in God no matter what difficulties or hardships may confront us in life. They are words one needs to hear before facing surgery or while recovering from sickness.
Verse one sets the tone for what is to come. The remainder of the psalm is consistent in its mood. There’s not one shred of ambivalence, not one ounce of doubt, no swaying back and forth between despair, anger, and pleading. The psalmist is totally grounded in his assurance that God will always be present.
As I post this entry, I am anticipating arthroscopic knee surgery Friday, February 22, 2013. I have never had surgery on any part of my body at any time in my life. So despite the fact that this is considered “minor” surgery, it is a big deal for me. My definition of minor surgery is when it is on someone else. Anytime one undergoes any medical procedure, there is always a risk factor.
Given the age of our Covenant parishioners, a lot of them have gone through this experience many more times than I have. Many of them had major operations: cardiac procedures and surgeries, joint replacements cataract removals, among many others. I have had the privilege of accompanying some of them and praying with them before their surgeries and praising God with them afterwards. I have learned so much from them and their situations to the point that I sometimes feel as if I could qualify for a license to practice medicine.
I am grateful that some of them have trusted me enough to share their anxieties, their concerns, and their fears with me. Others have expressed a confidence so absolute that it is beyond admirable. But my one hope when I visit with them is to leave them with that assurance that God is present with them, with the surgeons and with the medical staff, no matter what the outcome.
What I’ve learned through my own personal encounter is that the greatest source of anxiety stems from our dread of not being in control. As my family practitioner advised me, “You close your eyes and the next thing you know, you’re in recovery. And for that unknown period of time you have turned your life over to the medical people, trusting that their skills will bring you through the procedure safely.”
That is a tall order for those of us who are not accustomed to letting others take charge, especially over our affairs, our health, or our lives. We say we trust God, but do we really? Our actions demonstrate quite the opposite. We take matters into our own hands, behaving as if everything depends on us.
Throughout the season of Lent we follow Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. Jesus knew what his mission on earth was and, for him, it was not going to have a very happy ending. Yet he trusted God every step of the way. It is that trust that he modeled for us that we would do well to consider as followers of Christ and citizens of God’s kingdom.
During the season of Lent we stress the spiritual disciplines of fasting, and prayer and almsgiving. One of the major reasons we do so is to develop a sense of trust – trust that God provides for our needs, trust to depend on God for everything and to ask for anything in prayer, and to trust that God’s abundance enables us to provide for others.
Two ways God makes God’s presence known is through prayer and the study of God’s Word, and through our community of faith – our church congregation. It is with those people with whom we gather week after week in praise and worship of God in the sanctuary that we receive the support and encouragement that enables us to withstand whatever feelings of fear, discomfort, despair and disappointment we may be experiencing. A few minutes a day spent in prayer and study; and an hour or so a week spent in fellowship and rejoicing just might give us that sense of God’s presence among us, that sense of trust and confidence that will overpower fear.
I trust that my surgery will go well. I ask your prayers on my behalf. And I will hold you in prayer – that you learn to develop an unfailing trust in God’s goodness and grace, and move forward in faith, not in fear, in ways that convince us of the reality of God’s presence among us.