Inadequate Comforts: A reflection on Psalm 91 in preparation for Lent

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Psalm 91:1-2

Scripture testifies to the faithfulness of God. People are fickle and rebellious, yet the Lord is faithful and trustworthy. He is our refuge and fortress, faithful to deliver us. Still, we turn to inadequate comforts.

I see it in myself. When there is pain or fear or anxiety, my impulse is to seek quick relief. Maybe I will escape into a movie or football game. Or I may create an well-designed action plan to feel like I have control over the situation. Sometimes I eat an indulgent, feel-good meal. Probably Mexican food. Probably with queso. These things are not inherently bad – there are far more sinister and destructive means of escape – but all our comforts are woefully insufficient.

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler

And from the deadly pestilence.

Psalm 91:3

The Lord alone is Deliverer. In Lent we come to terms with the brokenness of the world, and we face into our own sin. We see our need for a deliverer, intentionally denying ourselves the inadequate comforts and means of escape with typically depend upon, so that we ultimately come to depend on the All-Sufficient Savior. Lent fasting prepares us for Easter feasting. When we acknowledge the magnitude of our sin and rebellion, we more fully appreciate the majesty of our deliverance.

In the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes the despair the apostles felt as they faced persecution in Asia. “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”

This is the posture of Lent. He has delivered us from the deadly peril of sin and death. And he will deliver us. He is Lord of all, and He is faithful. Therefore, let us hold fast in love to Our Deliverer (v. 14).

For an in-depth explanation and guide to Lent, read this post.

The Heart of Advent

Sunday, November 28, marks the beginning of Advent, the first season of the Christian year, which lasts four weeks leading up to Christmas. The season often ends up being a frantic time of busyness, shopping, and general running around, but it is meant to be something quite different. Christians have engaged this season as a time of preparation, fasting, and anticipation dating back to the 5th century. During these weeks, the Church corporately anticipates the celebration of Christ’s first coming and prepares for His coming again. While Advent is often treated like a countdown to Christmas, it is actually much more than that. 

We all unavoidably feel the weight of the world, the brokenness and groaning under the burden of sin. We long for resolution, justice, and peace. We mourn friends and family members who pass away. The daily news is full of the tragedies of the world. But that is not the whole story. Justice is coming. Peace is coming. Redemption is coming. Jesus is coming. For those who are in Christ, this is our unshakable hope. It is not an empty hope. In Advent we look both backwards and forwards. Back at Christ coming as testimony to the Lord’s faithfulness. Can you believe it? The Son of God took on flesh to come to us, to rescue us. And forward to Christ’s promised return. The One who came to us is faithful. He will come again!

This is the heart of Advent. It gives us hope and demands that we prepare. Since the Ascension, the Church has lived with the question, “Could this be the day?” We don’t know the day or the hour, so we’re forced to prepare each day. If today is the day, am I ready for His return? For those who are ready, Jesus’ return will be cause for joy and celebration. For all others, it will be fearful and distressing. 

So in this season, let us fast, pray, and examine our hearts that we would be filled with hope as we look to the Lord’s return. When He came into the world the first time, He gave us life, and He is coming again to restore all things. Let us look to Him. He is our hope!

Click here for suggestions from Anglican Compass on how to engage during Advent.

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