Psalm 121 can help during troubling times


“I lift up my eyes to the hills—

from where will my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;

he who keeps you will not slumber.

He who keeps Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;

the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day

nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;

he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time on and forevermore.”

– Psalm 121

Very early in the pandemic while we were still sheltering in place, I met with a couple of United Methodist colleagues on Zoom. They are also good friends of mine, the kind where we laugh and cry easily with one another. As is usual when we get together, we checked in on one another and caught up on our families and our work.

One of the women is serving a church in downtown Columbus which has a breakfast ministry for low-income families. Many who attend this breakfast experience homelessness. During the early days of the pandemic the breakfast was served dramatically different to comply with the shelter-in-place order and keep people safe.

The ministry was originally developed to help meet nutritional needs of the people. When basic needs like food, water, shelter, and safety go unmet, it is difficult for people to function above pure survival mode. The ministry isn’t just about food, though. In addition to feeding people, it also includes a brief worship experience with prayer, a short sermon, and time for fellowship. During the height of the pandemic, though, there was no worship, and the meal was takeout.

My friend shared that on Easter Sunday (2020) a man showed up for the breakfast in a suit and with his Bible in his hand. He was there to be fed and to be fed. When he learned that the breakfast was just a takeout meal, no fellowship or worship, he asked my friend where he could go for Easter worship.

She did not need to tell us anymore of the story. The three of us sat and wept together because we knew the answer. While online worship was an option for many of us, it was not an option for someone without resources, especially in those early days of the pandemic. He had no technological devices and no internet service. Because it was Easter Sunday, he couldn’t even go to the library to use one of their computers. We cried for the man, and we cried for the sense of helplessness that we all felt during the pandemic.

Psalm 121 has been an anchor for me during troubling times. It was my favorite go-to Psalm during the pandemic. It is timeless and true. Who else is there, but the Lord, to help? Feeling helpless is not a comfortable feeling. What do you do when you feel helpless? Do you have a favorite scripture that you turn to? Do you call a friend or family member? Are you able to pray? Can you move your body or create something? What is it that you do to help with the feelings of helplessness?

Our help does come from our Lord, the maker of the heavens and earth. Who else but God can calm our anxiety, impart peace in our hearts, and care for us in ways that we do not understand? Who else but God can provide stability in unstable times?

Fourteenth century Christian mystic Julian of Norwich was no stranger to helplessness and instability. During an illness which left her close to death, Julian had visions of Christ which transformed her life. She sums up her divine revelation by saying, “I desired many times to know in what was our Lord’s meaning … Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love … So I was taught that love is our Lord’s meaning.”

When life feels overwhelming and when you feel helpless, keep your eyes on the mountains. Nothing painful, uncomfortable, or unsettling lasts forever. Keeping your eyes up and trained on the one who can offer you help will get you through the toughest of times. Take heart and trust in this promise of God’s love.

Rev. Jennifer Applegate is pastor at the William Street United Methodist Church in Delaware.

No posts to display