We all have a “safe space,” whether it’s a cozy corner of our home, the embrace of a loved one, or a mental sanctuary we retreat to when life gets overwhelming. Safe spaces offer a respite from the storms of life. However, Psalm 91 introduces us to a form of safety and protection that surpasses any physical or emotional retreat: the immutable shelter offered by God.
According to Jewish tradition, Psalm 91 was authored by Moses. It vividly describes the promise of divine protection for those who seek refuge in God. The Psalmist paints a compelling picture, likening God to a fortress that shields us from the treacheries and traps set by wicked forces (verses 1-3). But God isn’t just any shelter; He is depicted as a nurturing figure whose “wings” offer comfort, just as the wings of a mother bird protect its young (Rashi), and whose “truth,” embodied in the Torah, serves as an unbreakable armor for those who study it (Midrash Shocher Tov).
“You need not fear the terror by night, or the arrow that flies by day,” (Psalms 91:5). Here, Moses reassures us that faith in God eliminates fear of the unknown, the seen and unseen threats that haunt our lives. Typically, someone walking by themselves at night may feel fear, imagining unknown threats lurking around every corner. However, when you walk with God, you’re never truly alone.
The latter verses of Psalm 91 are particularly impactful: “When he calls on Me, I will answer him” (verse 15). For those who call upon God, who recognize Him, the rewards are substantial: honor, a fulfilling life, and the unfathomable gift of seeing God’s salvation (verse 16).
Traditionally, Psalm 91 is known as the ‘Song of Plagues.’ It is recited with devotion to seek protection from calamities. Its verses are often uttered before sleep to guard against nighttime dangers and spoken after the Sabbath to shield oneself from the unknowns of the coming week.
While Psalm 91 emphatically speaks about God’s unyielding protection, it’s essential to recognize that we must still take reasonable precautions to keep ourselves safe. The difference lies in the mental and emotional freedom gained when we genuinely feel that, after all is said and done, it’s God’s protection that ultimately envelops us.
Among the most reassuring lines in this Psalm is verse 15, stating, “I will be with him in distress.” This sentiment emphasizes that we are never isolated in times of struggle, be it physical, social, familial, or spiritual; God’s all-encompassing presence acts as a shield of protection. However, the comfort derived from this verse extends beyond the mere notion of divine protection; it lies in the assurance that God stands with us through every challenge and hardship we face.
Psalm 91 offers a resounding affirmation for all those who feel vulnerable or exposed to life’s vicissitudes. It reassures us that our ultimate safe space isn’t made of bricks or guarded by mortal beings; it’s in the “shadow” of God, the fortress that no earthly force can penetrate. When you make God your refuge, not only are you shielded from harm, but you also gain an enduring sense of peace, knowing that no matter what happens, you are truly never alone.