Read: Psalm 27
I’ll never forget the afternoon I found out my college had closed its doors for the remainder of the semester, due to COVID-19. Being a part of our school’s chorale group, I spent the first week of spring break touring and performing in Tennessee, far from the noisy, cramped streets of Chicago. When we first left campus, the virus was barely on any of our minds. Flash forward to only a week later and there we all were, anxiously refreshing our email inboxes to hear the status of our school. When we read that campus was closing down and the rest of our semester would be remote, the whole choir came together as a group to pray and worship. We were hurt and confused, but in spite of all that, it was one of the most sincere moments of worship I’ve ever had. It reminded me of David in the Psalms, praising God even when the world around him was hostile and threatening. The news was a hard but much needed reminder that our plans were never guaranteed and our time on earth is short when compared to eternity.
Since then, my heart has been reflecting a lot on Psalm 27. I heard someone reference it recently in a prayer for the victims of the virus during our choir tour, and I’ve continued to pray with it ever since. Psalm 27 comforts me by reminding me that I don’t need to fear. In the first verse, David refers to the Lord as his light, salvation, and stronghold (v. 1). These are things which do not change with time. God was not just this way with David, He remains our light (John 8:12), our salvation (Heb. 7:25), our stronghold (Eph. 1:13). The psalmist makes this statement, then later says that God will “hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble” (v. 5). God Himself is our shelter! The safety, comfort, and familiarity we understand from being at home is exactly what David associates with being in the presence of God.
How often do I forget this for myself? At the first sign of trouble I take off running in the direction of my nearest security, whether it be finances, relationships, or health. My first instinct is seldom if ever to run immediately into the presence of God. This is the only place where there is real safety for my soul, not just part of me, but the whole me—safe in the hands of God. I can trust Him with my life because He knows it’s best use. He has my greatest good in mind even when I cannot see it.
The second thing that comforts me about Psalm 27 is how the psalmist boils down our needs to one pinpoint necessity: to know the Lord and to be with Him (v. 4). My happiness isn’t related to my financial situation, being with friends on the campus I love, or even having the freedom to go outside. The thing my heart longs for, the thing I need to be truly happy, is to be wherever God is. God’s Kingdom doesn’t shut down during a pandemic, we can always abide with Him there, knowing that our home is not in the ways of the world (Matt. 6:33).
Finally, Psalm 27 encourages me to wait for the Lord (v. 13–14). A week ago I wrote in my journal, “It’s been two weeks since I left my home, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to again. I’m starting to get scared. Somehow, God is still good despite what I’m feeling and seeing. I will wait for the Lord because it is He who protects me.” This chapter ends with David proclaiming that He knows He will see the goodness of God in his lifetime again. Death is in the headlines everywhere, but God is still at work through it. I will pray for courage and for those suffering, but at the end of the day who am I to doubt God’s purposes. With His grace, I will wait patiently, taking this time in the shadow of the valley of death to put my trust in His rod and staff—I will fear no evil (Ps. 23).
None of us know when this crisis will end, and that’s hard. But I’m grateful for this time to be still before the Lord and learn how to trust Him better. I challenge you to take a minute and reflect on the time you have in front of you. Even in quarantine it can be easy to become “too busy” to pray. Recognize now that your greatest need is to be in God’s presence, and not just to be productive or entertained. Turn off the noise, music, podcasts, whatever you’re using to distract yourself, and pray. Don’t just talk, listen. God wants to speak in this time, so rest in Him and pray for His Spirit to guide your thoughts and prayers—He is faithful to give His Spirit to those who ask (Lk. 11:13).
Author’s Note on Photograph: This photo captures a rare quiet moment. I’m the oldest in my family, and all of my younger siblings live at home with my parents in our cozy quarters. It’s been tough to find quiet spaces to reflect and be still throughout my days here. The backyard in my hammock has been my sanctuary where I go to seek the presence of God these last few weeks.