Wanted: confidence

Upheaval and uncertainty have been our constant companions these past two years. Communities and families alike have split over matters of politics and public health. While some people hold to views that to them seem blindingly obvious, their neighbors consider the same people to be obviously blind. We cherry-pick the news we want to hear, or doomscroll ourselves into depression.

What we could all use is boost of confidence in the future, an awakening of confidence in God.

For that we turn to Scripture. And if we turn specifically to the Psalms, we might stumble across Psalm 27, which the New Revised Standard Version labels, “A triumphant song of confidence.”

Perfect, right? Just what the doctor ordered.

Well…sort of. Personally, I think that heading is a bit misleading. Let’s take a closer look.

. . .

There’s no question that the psalm begins on a confident note. The psalmist sounds fearless in the face of any enemy, because God is on his side. God will protect him those who want to kill him, even if an entire army attacks:

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
    to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
    they shall stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
    yet I will be confident.
(vss. 1-3, NRSV)

Confident indeed. The psalm, which is attributed to David, also seems to echo David’s love for the sanctuary, where he would pray before the ark; there he would find solace in the presence of God. The psalmist believes that God will shelter him from trouble. Mixing metaphors, he also declares that God will set him on a high and solid rock, out of the trouble’s reach:

One thing I asked of the LORD,
    that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the LORD
    all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD,
    and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will set me high on a rock.

Now my head is lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD
. (vss. 4-6)

The psalmist is not in denial; he is not blind to the threats that press in from all sides. Yet he praises God, singing and shouting with joy.

A “triumphant song of confidence”? It would be — if the psalm ended there. In real life, even the life of faith, confidence isn’t a sure and unassailable shield against doubt and desperation. In the midst of trouble, confidence may be less something we possess, and more something for which we strive.

Hopefully, by now, we’ve come to expect honesty from the Psalms. This psalmist’s confidence in God doesn’t prevent him from feeling like God is ignoring him, and he’s not shy of saying so. In fact, in the very next verses, the psalmist — the one who just a second ago was singing hallelujahs! — pleads for God to respond to him, as if God had turned away.

Was his confidence a sham? Hardly. But as we’ll see in subsequent posts, we can learn a good deal from the psalmist’s honesty.