Light in our dark times

Psalm 140, 142, 141 (Morning)

Psalm 143:1-11(12) (Evening)

Numbers 24:1-13

Romans 8:12-17

Matthew 22:15-22

Our Psalms today are from the “140’s”–in which several of them have a recurring theme: “Oh, Lord, save me from my enemies, who, by the way, seem to be all around me at the moment, and are out to get me.”

It’s definitely one of those raw feelings that the Psalms do so well–that anxious sense of dread and being surrounded by trouble is a very real emotion. That said, we tend to feel that emotion more than we need to, or at times use it for problems of a lesser degree than is warranted.

It also seems that, when we’re feeling that way, social media isn’t always our friend. One of the tendencies of social media users (and we’ve all done it sometime) is to post something that ends up making us feel like the sky is falling.

Now, it’s not that those things aren’t important. They are. In a world with fewer and fewer people getting their news from newspapers, radio and TV, the news we post and share on social media becomes even more important.

Yet, there is also a point where our anxieties can actually worsen the situation, when no one’s meaning to do so. As I was scrolling my Facebook feed recently, I bumped into several re-posted news articles this week with severe anxiety provoking tendencies, ranging from the recent SCOTUS decision on the Hobby Lobby case, to increased Islamophobia over the recent situation in Iraq, to a whole host of ways we’re killing the planet.

Now, it’s not that these things aren’t important, or that we shouldn’t be concerned–they are, and we should–but our tendency to viral-ize bad news can tap into that intense sense of fear, dread, and being surrounded by enemies. That emotion can drag us so deeply into ourselves and our fears that it becomes so visceral we can’t have civil discussion. It can actually add to the stress we already feel, and paralyze us.

It’s clear that the Psalmist, in each of these Psalms, is feeling that kind of dread. In a couple of them, we can also see how these feelings can cause us to lash out in fear, wishing some pretty awful things upon those we consider the source of our trouble. At the same time, though, we also see something positive in them. We see the Psalmist asking for the kind of direction from God that we ask for in relationships we care about–it’s not mere slacktivism and hand-wringing.

In each of these four Psalms, we hear the Psalmist’s petitions: “Teach me. Protect me. Show me what to do next. If you hold me up, I will try to keep moving forward.”

Sometimes, when we feel surrounded by the world’s awful-ness, it’s simply the knowledge that we have a companion on the way, and a willing teacher, that gives us the courage to, as the recently popular meme says, “Keep calm and carry on.”

What are some of the ways God reveals holy light, in the times you feel utterly surrounded by darkness?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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