A Caregiver Looks at Psalm 91

Part I

Psalm 91

A Caregiver Looks at Psalm 91

I confess. I have a problem with Psalm 91. Have you read it lately? For the last seven months, I’ve studied the Psalms.

Last week I came to Psalm 91 and it got my dander up. Why? Because as a caregiver, I KNOW that God doesn’t offer supernatural protection from disease and death to Christians. I’ve known many good Christians who have had catastrophic illnesses, and many good Christians who have died.

How then, do I reconcile the verses about ‘no harm overtaking me’ and ‘no disaster coming near me’ with the reality of the bad things that happen to the ones I love?

Psalm 91 makes it sounds as if genuine Christians will have nothing bad happen to them. In fact, the Pilgrims believed that disaster meant that a person lived outside of God’s grace. The ‘elect’ had successful lives; everyone else had problems.

I don’t claim theologian status—but I do claim a personal relationship with God and a desire to understand his word with the help of the Holy Spirit. So, I set out to figure out how a caregiver can live with Psalm 91.

For the next several days, I’ll share what I’ve learned from giving Psalm 91 a closer look.

Verses 1-2

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

First of all, we must dwell in God. The word dwell means ‘to remain for a time’ as well as ‘to keep attention directed.’ It can also mean abide, stay, remain, and tarry. If I spend time with God and trust him with the most intimate parts of my life, than I can say I dwell in him.

In that act of dwelling, I can find rest—something every caregiver needs! I must give up my desires to fix everything and make the path smooth for those I care for. I must discipline myself to consciously turn over all of my problems to God.

Verse two talks about God in war-terms: refuge and fortress.
Our motto needs to be, “I trust in God.” Period.

Verses 3-4Some people think Psalm 91 promises us a life on easy street. I disagree. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1FW

3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

The next two verses use a birdy simile—something I can relate to! In the olden days, fowlers had the responsibility for setting snares for wild birds for the cooking pots. They acted as specialized bird hunters. Likewise, the devil acts as a specialized hunter of human souls.

The word ‘pestilence’ means ‘disaster’ or ‘destructive and pernicious.’ The devil sets snares for us, and uses pernicious lies to lure us into his hopeless way of thinking.

God doesn’t promise us a life without disease, he promises protection from the pernicious lies of the evil one.

God doesn't promise a disease-free life; he promises protection from the lies of the evil one. Click To Tweet

The simile continues in verse four where the psalmist says that God will offer us shelter under his wings. A mother bird will shelter her young under her wings—which act as protection against the elements as well as other birds and animals of prey.

I believe one facet of that protection for caregivers includes what I call a ‘happy-face-state-of-grace.’ During Pedro’s illness, I often thought it odd that I didn’t break down on a regular basis.

Bad news and discouraging setbacks seemed to roll right off me—I had taken emotional shelter under the wings of a loving Savior. Just like feathers repel the rain, so God’s grace provided protection for my emotions during very trying times.

God’s faithfulness arranged flights that seemed impossible, kept airfare low, provided inexpensive hotels, and in times of great need, a way for our daughters to see Pedro for what we thought was the last time.

Caregiver Applications

1. God wants us to take up residence in the safest place possible—close to him. As caregivers, we do this by staying in daily connection with him.
2. The devil’s snares consist of pernicious lies—thing such as, “It’s my fault.” “If only I had ____.”
3. God’s ‘wings’ of grace protect us and allow us to function when we choose to hide close to him.
4. God will provide. His faithfulness will manifest itself in unexpected ways.

How has God provided for you in your caregiver journey? Share in the comments section! I’d love to celebrate God’s goodness with you.

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Psalm 91 is a favorite of mine for its triumphant tone and invincible faith, but I also recall hearing Elisabeth Elliot tell about the challenge of communicating the truth of that psalm to her daughter — whose father had been speared to death in the course of ministry to an unreached people group. It does present some challenges, because we know that “a thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand but it shall not approach you, you will only look on with your eyes” is a promise that falls flat for someone who has seen the loss or devastating disability of a loved one. At the same time, I’ve experienced that impervious calm you wrote about, and it’s a gift.

    I always appreciate your ponderings, Anita. I’ll be back tomorrow to see who else shows up for the discussion and the party.

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  • Alice

    Well said Anita. Such encouragement for caregivers and other too. Unless we are dwelling in Him, we can’t share the encouragement or hope to others.

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    I am glad I can read from others who have thought the same thoughts, because as a Christian – I struggled alone for a long time, thinking I was just confused (or not saved) because I didn’t “get it.” As I pray, God keeps showing up and speaking to me through other Christian blogs. I can say with all honesty I never thought I’d receive such discipleship in this way, but it seems so. Thanks for sharing this!

  • I love this breakdown of Psalm 91. I like seeing how others explain it because we know it’s not literal because, yes, we do see people get sick and die! Thanks for showing us how we can see that God’s words are true and faithful even in the midst of our eyes showing us something different.

  • Susan

    I was wondering “where” this would go…good job. Psalm 91 is my favorite chapter in the OT!!! John 17 in the NT.

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  • Anita, this is great! Your explanation is helpful and wise. Blessings to you!

  • Mary

    I am learning how resting and abiding in God is drawing close to Him. It’s trusting Him to take care of us instead of us trying to figure it out on our own. Your words affirm what I am learning. Psalm 91 is a great Scripture to learn that God is for us even when we see sickness or are in the middle of caring for someone close to us. Thank you for your words today!

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