You will not fear the terror of the night – Psalm 91:5a
Were you ever afraid of the dark? I think most of us were at one point or another. It seems that fear of the dark is a base fear, one that we all must wrestle with. The darkness of nighttime can be frightening. When the world is dark you can’t see what’s in front of you. When you can see what’s there you’re more in control, or at least you enjoy the illusion of control. But when it’s dark…well, that’s when fear and terror seem to be most at hand.
Again and again the scriptures tell us to fear not; be not afraid; you will not fear. If we were to survey the abundance of these texts we might be kept busy for days! This call to fear not doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be afraid of. Quite the contrary! The Lord almighty knows that there is much to be afraid of. Because of sin this world is thrown into chaos. Storms rise up, animals maul, our fellow humankind hurts, the forces of evil oppress, we damage (even ourselves), and the nighttime does hold unforeseen dangers! There is after all a reason so much crime happens in the nighttime hours. No, the scriptures’ call to not be afraid is not some spiritual platitude that everything’s going to be all right so just don’t worry.
Instead, when the scriptures tell us not to be afraid, like they do in Psalm 91, they are sending a powerful message. In the midst of fear and terror and those things that go bump in the night we have a protector. God hides you under his wings like a mother bird hides her children. God covers you with a shield as a soldier is protected against the enemy. That which we fear is real; but the one who protects us is also real! He is real and he is present with us!
When a child is afraid of the dark they may run to their loving parent for comfort and protection. The parent will pick them up and wrap their arms around them. They might rock them…literally creating that womb like sense of protection for their frightened child. They whisper a lullaby into their ear and say to them over and over “I’m right here; I’m not going anywhere; I love you; I’m not going to let anything happen to you.” And with time the child is soothed and goes off to peaceful sleep.
What we’ve experienced from our parents; what we’ve done for our children; the Lord God almighty does for each and every one of us. He protects us from danger and harm. It may be that the arms of a friend are the very arms of the Lord. It may be that his voice is the hymn you sang last week, or the scripture you read this morning, or the sermon you’ll hear this week. It may be that his touch is the warm handshake of the person behind you in the checkout line or the touch of the Eucharist you received on Sunday. Or it may be that the Lord has sent his holy angels; unseen but felt all the same. Never the less, the simple truth is this: The Lord is real, he is present with you, he is protecting you in the midst of your nighttime fear – whenever and whatever that might be for you – and he loves you…and that will never change, no matter what happens in the day or night.