by Deborah McCormick Maxey, PhD @DeborahMaxey2
…he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge. Psalm 91:4 NRSV
“Brain surgery.” Never had two words produced so much anxiety in me. I had prayed the world renown medical team would suggest I try yet another pill. My mind constantly replayed what it would entail to create a “hole in the head”: scalpels in my grey matter and affixing a titanium plate.
It was the first week in December, and instantly I knew that other than my husband, who was with me, God was calling me to keep this scary news from everyone else. I could not let the joy of the Christmas holiday be marred with the fact that I would undergo this on New Year’s Eve, I would undergo this procedure.
At first I was mystified, as a worship leader and a prayer warrior, by God’s direction to not ask for prayer. But eventually I understood: He wanted me to look up, not around, for support.
A few days later I felt God moving me to message a Facebook acquaintance whose sister is a pastor. They both advised me to memorize Psalm 91 and to think of it as “911” to God, because of His promises of protection it held.
I began intense study on that psalm. Verse by verse I journaled deeply into the meaning of the words. As a visual person, it was not enough to understand what the Scripture said, I wanted images to spring to mind as I recited the words in praise and petition.
For the above verse, I googled “birds protecting their young” and found pictures that brought me peace. Birds stretch out their huge pinion feathers and fold their young beneath their wings to shield them. Huddled safe from everything, the babies sleep peacefully while the parent bird stands watch, taking the blows from any attacker. Just as Jesus did on the cross.
I found another reassuring image in verses 11-12 (NRSV): For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up.”
Verse 15 (NRSV) also promises God will not fail. “When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.” Each verse brought joy and confidence that the Lord would be there for me through everything that lay ahead.
En route to Duke University on the day of surgery, Psalm 118:24 (NKJV) spontaneously repeated in my head: “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And unbelievably, I felt the truth of those words.
Before leaving for the hospital, with a Sharpie, I had written “Psalm 91” in the palm of my hand, ready to grasp it like a squeeze ball if I needed extra strength. But there was an unintended effect: several hospital staff saw it, recognized it, and prayed with me on the spot. Folks I never met on the surgical team, found me afterwards to say that they also saw it and prayed.
I suffer from a chronic neurological disorder, Trigeminal Neuralgia, known as the “The Suicide Disease” because seventy two percent of those diagnosed end their lives within two years of onset. But through the surgery, which had been so scary to anticipate, God greatly reduced my 24/7 pain. He knew all along that His grace would be sufficient when I sought and trusted in him.
When things look overwhelming, and it feels counterintuitive to trust fully in Him, we can know He has a plan, a lesson, and a blessing in store. Over time, prayer, and the study of His Word, we learn to discern His voice. And His presence in our discipline brings us peace.
About the author: Deborah Maxey, winner of numerous writing awards, has several short stories soon to be released in anthologies. Her first novel, “The Endling,” is scheduled to be published by Firefly Southern Fiction, Iron Stream Media. Along with a love for storytelling, Deborah is worship leader at her church, devoted wife, mother, grandmother, fine artist, and a licensed professional therapist in Lynchburg Virginia.
Join the conversation: What has been counterintuitive for you in your relationship with God?