Right now I'm putting the service together for Sunday morning and our music leader for this service, Hilary Kisler, has suggested a Tim Dudley Smith hymn that I'd never come across before. I looked it up (it's a great choice) and saw it was based on Psalm 91. Reading through the Psalm I come to an abrupt halt at verse 9:
If you make the Most High your dwelling -
even the Lord, who is my refuge-
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.
To be perfectly honest, pastorally, I tend to get really embarrassed by these kinds of verses particularly when they're used in public worship. I know that on Sunday morning when we read the text and then sing the hymn that's based on it then this verse is going to stick in the throat of a good number of people who have had some pretty bad stuff happen to them. ""No disaster will come near your tent", is that a fact!".
And, if it doesn't cause a problem then I'm going to feel equally as bad as it probably means that the Scripture is not being taken seriously ("I know it says that but it must mean something else....it's just one of those odd bits - the Bible's got quite a few of them!").
But as I reflected on it, not ten minutes ago now, concerned about the stuck in the throat thing, I was really struck by the way the gospel redefines our terms. The verse is either true or it's not true - it can't be true and false simultaneously - we have to chose. If we assume that it must be true for we know that God isn't in the business of telling us lies we have to ask "how is it true?".
It surely must mean that when we lose our car keys/a promotion/an entire career/ a loved one then despite the evidence to the contrary.... it's not a disaster. It might look like one, it might taste and smell like one but the Lord says that "no disaster" will come near us so it can't be one. The text also says that "no harm" will befall us and, again, it must surely mean that the loss we face is not something that will, actually, do us harm. Again despite what we're conditioned to think.
This is more than just playing with words and putting a positive spin on terrible stuff. Rather it's choosing to view our lives through the lens of the gospel, using God's definitions to understand what happens and not our definitions.