"But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life." (Psalm 54:4)
Psalm 54 is a cry of panic. Enemies are all around the writer, and there is genuine fear in the voice and heart of the writer. All the other statements in the short psalm are ones are anger, fear, and anguish. Yet, amidst these overwhelming emotions the writer has at least enough self-control and faith to cry out to God with affirmation and trust.
Have you ever felt that level of panic? Has there ever been that moment when you were utterly out of control and your life was totally beyond your ability to protect it? When I lived in Florida, friends came to visit from Minnesota, and we went snorkeling in Palm Beach. My friend and I were very confident in the water, but neither of us had experience in the ocean. As we snorkeled in about fifteen feet of water, along a reef, a huge school of blue fish swallowed us up. It was the coolest experience, to be totally wrapped in a school of fish...until.
All of a sudden the fish parted at about my waist, and a huge shark, opened mouth, swam up to me, then turned down, went under me, and up the other side. Perhaps it thought I was some mass in the water and not flesh. I looked below me, and I saw sharks everywhere, they were following the school of blue fish.
In the wake of the shark, I saw my friend's leg, I grabbed it and yelled, "SSHHAARRKK." We were underwater, so it just came out as an extended gurgle. We were a long way from shore. I prayed, trying not to panic, as we tried to ride the waves, on our bellies, back to shore.
The black flags were up, the sirens were going off, and my friend's wife was crying hysterically. We never heard or saw anything because we were mostly underwater. In those few minutes to shore, I experienced the psalmist's panic and fear. My enemies, the sharks were in control and all I could do was pray in fragments. God often takes special care of the stupid, and we both made it safely to shore.
As you pray today, remember a time of panic. Let yourself re-experience the feeling. Then ask God to comfort your heart. So, if a moment of panic and fear returns, you will know the feeling and know instinctively where to turn; to God.
"Fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God.' God looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God." (Psalm 53:1a & 2)
It is getting harder and harder to "seek after God." I do not believe in an incarnational evil, like a devil with goat horns, red tail, and pitch fork. Yet, I do believe in evil. The world experiences evil all the time. Evil is graphic like the when James Eagan Holmes walked into a Denver area Theater in 2012, and opened fire. When he was done, twelve people were murdered and another seventy were injured. Another example of graphic evil is Jared Fogle, the Subway guy, who had sex with two minors and participated in a scheme that secretly recorded twelve other children engaging in sexual acts; one as young as six years of age. While James Holmes and Jared Fogle's actions can only be the result of mental illness, their actions were evil.
Evil can also be more subtle in nature, but no less destructive. Evil is anything that destroys people. Anything that separates us from God is a form of evil. Fools, who make fun of faith in God, are acting in a way that is evil. The evil of our secular world is often the subtle diminishment of God. The way to nurture wisdom amidst evil, is to seek after God.
When you worship, you are challenging evil with wisdom. When you study Scripture, you are seeking after God, and chasing evil from your heart. When you pray, you are seeking after God and keeping evil from ruining your heart.
Whether by choice or by mental illness, evil took over the decision-making of James Holmes and Jared Fogle. They need our prayers. So do those who deny God and lead people away from the life-giving faith in God. Seeking after God takes commitment. To be wise takes time and is a faithful, life-long journey. Let's stop the foolishness, and seek after God together.