"For the righteous will never be moved: he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries." (Psalm 112:6–8)
When I first read these words, I am filled with a sense of disappointment. They don’t seem to describe me, even though I wish they did. I’ve often struggled with anxiety and being responsible, and so when I hear that a righteous person isn’t afraid of bad news, that they have a firm heart that trusts God, at steady heart that doesn’t oscillate or fret, that this person isn’t afraid and is ultimately victorious, I tend to ask, “Well, what I am I doing wrong?”
Verses like this tend to remind me I have a long way to go before I can call myself a “righteous person.” In fact, part of my anxious spirit comes from overthinking, ruminating on every possible outcome, and trying to maintain a sense of control over things. I recall one time being in an Al-Anon meeting when another person said, “I spend most of my life living in someone else’s head.” That resonated with me because anxiety has an insatiable appetite for information—the curiosity anxiety brings often feeds its dark, unwelcoming reaches.
But verses like this require careful reading. Notice the tenses. The righteous will never be moved, they will not be afraid … These verses are promises of future hope because they present a vision of a person who lives by God’s words. If—and it’s a big if—we could live our lives as though God’s word were true all the time, then these verses would be true of us—all the time.
Because we are both sinners and redeemed saints at the same time, we can never live perfectly by God’s words. And yet scripture says, “the righteous shall live by faith.” Faith continues to hold fast to God’s words even as we are tempted to doubt them. More often we prefer to live our lives in the light of reason and experience. These seem more accurate and visceral to us. Faith is not opposed to these things, but nor does it submit to them either.
Living by God’s words means continually asking, “Is this true?” about our feelings and frets. “I will never be happy again,” “Everyone has abandoned me,” “I can't be forgiven,” “I’m just a failure.” These statements represent true feelings, but they are not true statements! God says other things about us. He tells us that our joy is in him, that he will never leave or abandon us, that our sins are forgiven objectively because of Christ’s work and that our failures can never separate us from his love, and that he wants to use us in his mission to save the world! How we feel is so often conditioned upon what we are experiencing. Faith grabs hold of something outside our experience, something objective and true that is not changed by circumstance.
So when we read the verses above, what we are reading is a vision of what we can be more like if we learn to listen to what God says about us over what our hearts say about us. We must walk in truth to gain the freedom of truth. We must walk by faith to have the sight of faith. And walking in faith is simply this—grabbing on to God’s promises despite our changing moods and circumstances. Faith trusts, it gives the benefit of the doubt, it hopes, and it is ultimately defiant of any other narrative other than what God says about us. When we begin to practice this, we find God does the work of freeing us, and our hearts remain steady because they are not moved by every change and threat. Let us live in this promise.