Psalm 27 begins with these confident words of trust: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” The psalmist continues in this vein for a good while and even says, “God will shelter me in the day of trouble and set me high upon a rock.” It seems like nothing can cause him to waver.
But then comes a crack in that shield of confidence. “Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger… do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.” The ache in this plaintive cry for help is almost palpable. The psalmist is so beset by his enemies that he fears that God has forsaken him. How can such disparity in thoughts and feelings be contained in the same prayer?
This contradictory mix has a beauty all its own. Why? The psalmist feels comfortable being honest with God. Without reservation he expresses the tangled muddle of his experience. Underlying this honest expression is a trust that God hears and will answer. How reassuring this is on those days when my thoughts swing from buoyant confidence to hesitant second-guessing.
This is why Psalm 27 is one of my favorites. It reminds me that real fear can live alongside honest faith. Doubt can hold hands with genuine trust. In fact, both are essential to an authentic relationship with God. It comes down to this: God expects us to ask our deepest questions and to voice to our most troubling doubts. And… God promises to listen.
The psalmist knows that holding this tension between doubt and trust involves a good bit of patience. He concludes his prayer with this: “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.”
Thanks to Lindsay P. Armstrong’s for inspiration in her commentary on Psalm 27 (Feasting on the Word, Lent Series C)
Pastor Rachel Larson is the pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Laramie, Wyoming. She is spouse of Don Holmstrom, mother of Susanna Holmstrom, and caretaker of Dooley the dog.