Psalm 49 Answers My Fear of Not Being Enough
Recently my family has undergone a lot of life changes. Some are good, like the birth of my daughter. Some are sad, like a cross-country move away from friends. Some are just hard.
I find, in this season, my heart yearns for something more than the life I am living. My soul is easily afraid, haunted by fearful questions. What if I never amount to anything? What if this is it? What if there is never more to life than the mundane in-and-outs and ups-and-downs of laundry, dishes, screaming children, healing wounds, and lack-luster days? How do I get success and purpose? What if I never move from the “bleh” present to the” sparkly” future?
In Psalm 49, the Sons of Korah express how the praise and admiration of others’ success can foster the fears in our heart, (vv. 13, 16, 18). In stark contrast to my list of haunting questions, God answers my heart through the question I never thought to consider:
“Why should I fear in evil times, when the twisted-nature of those who would deceive me surrounds me?” (Psalm 49:5, authors’ interpretive translation)
This question forces me to reconsider all my other questions. Yes, I feel like these days are pointless, and maybe you do too, but why do we feel that way?
We Buy Into a Deceitful Philosophy
Our natural fears increase when the deceitful worldview peddled by twisted men envelops us, turning my days into a shadow of all that is wrong with life (“trouble” v. 5, ESV).” Peddlers of the world’s philosophy are “at our heels,” dogging our steps as we walk through life. We are unable to avoid them and unable to get their voices out of our ears. “Believe this! Trust this! Look here!”
These voices may not be commending bad things to us. They may simply be saying, “Your value comes from your daily productivity or happy relationships. You will find life satisfaction in a clean house or a promotion at work. Beautiful, obedient children prove you are a good mom. Your husband’s praise before others gives you worth. You can completely control your health by natural living. You will finally have amounted to something if you accomplish X, Y, and Z!”
These peddlers believe their human accomplishments and resources provide hope, security, and worth (v. 6), and their twisted or broken natures (“iniquity” v. 5)1 have deceived (“cheat” v.5)2 their own hearts. Therefore, when I feel my days are pointless, I am buying into that same deceit. I subscribe to a philosophy grounded in myself rather than my Savior. I am walking in their darkness, then wondering why I am so afraid.
We Must Cultivate a Robust Understanding of Our End
Surprisingly, according to Psalm 49, the answer for my fear of not being enough is a robust understanding of death. The Psalmist does not look at a righteous man’s life to provide an answer for his fear. He takes us right to the grave, so that we can see the end results of all the things we’ve been chasing.
I often believe, like these twisted men, that I have the answer in myself. Yet, my efforts can do nothing about my ultimate problem: death. No one can escape death, it calls to all (vv. 9-10, 12, 14, 17, 19-20). “Truly no man can ransom another, or give God the price of his life” (v. 7, ESV). Wealth, power, and success will give me no more in the end than the animals have–a grave in the dirt (v. 12). Trusting in anything else other than God is a “foolish confidence” (v. 13).
The way I perceive life starts from the way I perceive death. If my efforts can save me from death, then I can gain longevity and health by using the right essential oils, exercise, vegan/paleo/gluten-free/keto/whole-food diets, doctors, vaccinations (or avoiding), natural remedies, and medicines. My happiness and fulfillment could be achieved by an illustrious career and a perfect family. My value would come from my performance as a wife and mother, and from the numerous blog articles I’ve written. If I walk through my days, looking for my worth from my accomplishments or the praise of others, I know nothing of God.
We Must Remember to Whom We Belong
However, should a woman desire to escape this bleak destiny, our Psalm declares, “God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me” (v. 15, ESV). God will buy us back (“ransom” v. 15) from death, creating a transfer of ownership. We no longer belong to the natural way of the world, but to Him. The New City Catechism sums this up perfectly: “What is our hope in life and death? We are not our own but belong to God.”3 If my death belongs to God, so my life also belongs to him. If I am received by God (v. 15), then I have infinite value. My hours have purpose, not because menial labor is in itself glorious, but because Jesus’ glory superintends all of life. His rays of glory shine from my future grave into my day today.
I can look up from the dishes I am washing and see Him standing at the right hand of the Father waiting to welcome me home. I have hope for dull, dreary days because I know that “He who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV). Even if my dreams never come true, I can trust this life is a good display of His steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 57:3). This goes against every Disney movie and romantic comedy you’ve ever seen. It feels wrong to suggest that my dreams may not come true and yet I can still be ok. Yet that is exactly what Scripture teaches.
We Trust God in the Mundane
These glorious truths change how I walk through my day-to-day. I choose to trust God’s goodness and glory in my mundane days because God watches over every moment of my life, from birth to the grave (Matthew 6). I can be gracious with children who interrupt my writing and my projects because my hope rests in my Savior, not in my accomplishments. My joy increases because the worth of my day comes not from the success of my work, but from God’s very presence walking with me hour by hour (Psalm 16:11).
If I cannot save my physical life, then why would I fear when the content of my days looks nothing like what I dreamed? I recognize that my striving will not give my life meaning; in fact, it will separate my heart from the only One who gives any life meaning. But the present has hope when I can see the eternity beyond my death. A single day or hour may not make sense, and I do not need to fear this. I may not see how it fits in the entirety of God’s purpose for me (Psalm 57:7, Ephesians 2:10), but “I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed, unto Him against that day.”4
1 “Iniquity” (ESV) defined “to bend, twist, distort” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, #1577a).
2 “Liars in wait” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, #1676B). “Deceivers” is the favored translation of the NIV84.
3 New City Catechism, Question #1
4 Hymn: “I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace” by D. W. Whittle (1883); Public Domain