Psalm 91:5 – No Fear of Terror by Night

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I grew up with nine brothers, and our three-bedroom house required a lot of bunk beds. My father and uncle finished the attic, making it a large bedroom with a full bath.

My older brothers moved into the attic and devised an ingenious plan to keep us little kids from their lofty bedroom – goblins. Convinced by their horrifying stories of goblins in the attic, we dared not ascend the new staircase to their domain – ever.

After learning of goblins, a prayer I learned from infancy took on new meaning: “And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Now I knew that unseen monsters could eat me in the night.

An overwhelming fear of darkness seized my heart. If I needed to get up in the middle of the night, I would inch my way toward the bathroom with my back against the walls, arms outstretched to feel my way there. When I reached the top landing of the steps going downstairs, I would leap across the perilous goblin-filled space to the safety of the next wall. In my five-year-old mind, you see, the goblins descended from the attic at night and ruled the darkness throughout our home.

My Deliverance from Fear

This dread of the dark terrorized me till my early twenties. While at Bible college, one evening I needed to retrieve an item from the library basement. I descended the steps of the old building in complete darkness and extended my hand to pull the string for the light. As soon as light filled the basement, I realized that I was free from the gripping fear of darkness for the first time in my life. God’s Word had flooded my soul with light, and the dark terror had no more power over me. I was free!

Psalm 91:5 reminds me of my deliverance: “You will not be afraid of the terror by night.” 

The Nature of Worries

Fear of the dark is common among children, but we realize that there are no monsters under the bed as we mature. We often replace the imagined childhood beasts with unseen worries that tend to seem monstrous at night. 

Worries are nothing but imaginations of things that haven’t happened. It’s the possibility of them occurring that fills us with anxiety and fear. But just as the monster under our bed never got us, many of our nighttime worries never materialize. It is our fear of what might happen that eats us up with anxiety.

Tackling Worries Head-On

If worries keep me awake at night, I like to give them a good “talking to.” “Okay, anxiety, if you’re going to keep me awake, I’m going to use this time to read my anxiety-crusher, the Bible!” I review God’s promises, such as Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard my heart and mind through Christ Jesus.”

Real Terror by Night

Even if nighttime worries tempt the believer of Psalm 91, his trust in God will guard his heart against fear. However, the context of verse five shows us that the terror by night is a lot more than imagined worries.

“You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.” (Psalms 91:5-6)

Teenagers often hear their parents warn, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” The spiritual powers of darkness work night and day, but their influence is generally more violent in the cover of night. An analysis of crimes committed in daytime or at night revealed that “violent crimes such as driving while impaired, murder, rape/sexual assault, and robbery were more frequently reported at night.”

Even though the believer who trusts God and runs to Him for protection may face genuine “terror by night,” he will not be afraid. He has made it a habit to run to God’s “outstretched wing” for protection, and God has proven time and again that He is faithful to His promises.

Don’t Be Afraid of Sudden Terror

It’s one thing to be startled by a sudden threat to our wellbeing – like a growling, charging dog, or being cut off in traffic – and that’s normal. God designed us to have a surge of adrenalin in times of danger, to provide us with heightened awareness and strength for a “fight or flight” response. It’s okay to be afraid of startling perils, for He tells us in Proverbs 3:25, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror.” Our natural response to imminent threats is nothing to fear. 

When an actual threat persists, however, Psalm 91:5 is still valid. He who trusts in God will not be afraid of the terror by night.

When our son was attending medical school in Be’er Sheva, Israel, he was no stranger to the “terror by night.” Air raid sirens regularly warn Israelis in threatened areas to seek shelter immediately from rocket and mortar attacks. The sirens would often sound at night, requiring our son to get up and flee to a safer location. There he would huddle with others until after the screeching signal stopped. 

Victory Over Terror by Night

When the believer of Psalm 91 is in such a situation, he can encourage others around him to trust in God instead of being afraid. When terror-struck men surrounded Paul in a great storm at sea, he “ran” to God in prayer (Acts 27:21-25). The Lord promised protection for him and everyone on board. Paul relayed this good news to the men, and they were all saved.

The first four verses of Psalm 91 teach us about the mindset and habits of the believer who trusts in God for protection. Now, in verse five, we begin to see the results of trusting God. We need not be afraid of the terror by night, for He will cover us with His feathers like a mother hen stretches out her wings to protect her chicks from danger. God’s faithfulness will be our shield and bulwark!

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