Serving the High Plains

Faith is not the absence of fear

When you read the Psalms, right away you see David calling to God for rescue from his enemies. They have surrounded him and are threatening his life. This starts in Psalm 2.

David cries out to God. I don’t see him taking the time to light a candle or even get to his favorite prayer spot. Right where he is, he’s dropping to his knees, hands reaching toward heaven. When he speaks, it’s not in some measured and gentlemanly King James formality. He’s screaming. He hurts his throat.

“Lord, how many are my foes!” (Psalm 3:1)

In these psalms, the writer prays that God will come and deliver him. Often, this is couched in some pretty rough language, calling for broken teeth and bones, as well as curses on an entire family line. This makes us nervous. It shouldn’t. (I mean, if this upsets you, wait until you hear about hell.)

This sort of psalm, which calls down curses on the enemies, is called by scholars “imprecatory.” Imprecatory is just the sort of word an academic would come up with. I propose that we change it from an imprecatory psalm to a “psalm of panic.”

That may be a little strong, though, to be fair. David almost always interjects statements of great faith along with his cries from the midst of the crisis.

I don’t know: Maybe I’m writing to the wrong crowd. Maybe you can’t identify with this sort of situation.

I can, though. Recently I had to admit that I am perfectly capable of falling victim to worry, anxiety, and stress. I hate to have to come clean about that.

The devil’s taunt is, “What! I thought you were a man of God, a man of faith.”

Where is my faith when the enemy threatens? Doesn’t the Word say that the righteous are bold as a lion? (It does.) So why do I sometimes resemble a trembling kitten?

Well, at least I have this to cling to: It seems like King David, the man after God’s heart, dealt with similar feelings.

As I was considering this one day, I was comforted by a fairly simple observation. David didn’t just write one psalm of this sort. He wrote a lot of them.

I’m feeling like you probably don’t see why that’s profound. Not to worry. I’m here for you.

David wrote a lot of imprecatory psalms. He didn’t write just one.

What this means is that after he wrote the first one, when he got threatened again, he got really upset again, and he needed to write another one. Again, and again.

Where is your faith, David? Why does this stuff keep making you so fearful? I mean, you’re David, for crying out loud, the original boy wonder, the warrior-poet turned fearsome king. Shepherd David was frightened by neither lion nor bear nor giant.

But here he is, repeatedly, on the ground, heart pounding, tears streaming. It’s not the worst thing in the world if that’s where we find ourselves. At least we’re in good company.

A panicked cry may not be a faithless one. It depends on who you’re calling.

Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at:

[email protected]

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