I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
I remember the first time I read this – really read it, I mean – how struck I was by what the Lord delivered me from. My fears?!
I think of myself as a very fearful person. Could it be possible that the Lord would really deliver me from my fears? My fears of failure and rejection? These fears have paralyzed me from pursuing dreams, from pursuing relationships, and even from pursuing my own health. I’ve often felt unequal to the task of living the Christian life because I knew I would fail. (And that, my friends, is a failure in itself to believe the Gospel – because the whole reason Jesus died for me is because I fail!!)
In fact, fear was behind my perfectionism. I don’t know if the vein of perfectionism I’ve labored in is weird or normal, but basically since it was driven by fear, I would self-sabotage in my efforts to be ok with not being perfect.
In college (um, and maybe grad school): “Oh, well, I started that paper at 10pm the night before it was due, so it’s understandable that it wasn’t my best work.”
In my 20s (ok, and maybe even this week): “Oh, well, I know I should have followed up with that new acquaintance who I really liked, but I got distracted and didn’t so… if she doesn’t want to hang out with me now, it’s understandable.”
The last few months and on through to today: “Oh, well, I’ve been talking about getting into teaching and writing as paid work, but I don’t know where to start, so it’s understandable that I haven’t done it yet.”
All of these scenarios are real in my life, and all of them are driven by fear. So the first time I really read this verse in this beautiful Psalm, it sounded like the clear sweet call of a rescue party coming to deliver me out of deep waters. The Lord wants to – and can, and will! – deliver me from my fears!!!
But today as I sit down and take another look at this beautiful verse, I am struck by something else.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me.”
The Lord delivering me from my fears is a by-product of the Lord answering me. And the Lord answering is obviously in response to my seeking Him. And why don’t I seek him as often as I could? Because I’m afraid – I’m afraid he won’t answer me. I’m afraid he won’t answer me with the answer I want.
But the Psalmist assures me of this: if I seek the Lord, He will deliver me from my fears. He may not give me the answer I want, but He will deliver me from the paralyzing effects of fear.
The Psalmist goes on to say: “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be covered with shame.” And isn’t shame at the root of my perfectionism?
It can be hard for me to believe that even if I fail and am rejected, my face will be radiant instead of covered with shame when I look to the Lord. And yet I have experienced this beautiful, comforting truth.
The Psalmist later says “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” The fear of rejection and failure surely can be replaced by “the fear of the Lord,” which is not paralyzing but empowering. It just takes me turning my eyes to him, tearful or fearful or shadowed in shame, to receive deliverance from my fears. So simple… and yet so hard. Help me, Lord.