When Enemies Seem More Present Than God
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5
Have you noticed how the word “enemy” has undergone a paradigm shift as you’ve grown older? When we’re in elementary school, I think most of us consider our enemies to simply be the kids who stole our crayons. Maybe in middle school and high school, it was the girls who talked about us behind our backs, yet even then we might have been hesitant to refer to them as “enemies”, after all, the word has serious weight. As we grow further in our faith and in life, the word “enemies” may seem almost irrelevant- after all, if we’re Christians, we can’t have actual enemies, right? The only enemy we have is the enemy, right? Yes. But I know that I also have actual enemies in my daily life, and they’re sidekicks of the enemy. Some of them are named comparison, perfectionism, fear, and there’s also what I consider my biggest one- having the not so lovely name of anxiety.
Maybe you’ve fought wars against these enemies, too. As Christians, we find that life with the Lord is so beautiful, and we also find that knowing the Lord does not exempt us from being attacked by enemies.
On a Sunday morning that I was particularly feeling hard-pressed by my personal enemy anxiety, the pastor of the church I go to broke down Psalm 23 verse by verse. Psalm 23 is a known and loved Psalm, so much so that I think we often overlook the significance of what God might be teaching through these words. I was amazed at what he revealed to me through words I’d heard many times before in verse 5 of Psalm 23.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
I so easily feel consumed by anxiety as it sometimes seems to take over every part of my body and mind, paralyzing me. I’m a very “feely” person, and if I’m not mindful of it, I quickly deem any negative thing I’m experiencing as reality and truth even if it’s just a fleeting feeling. God has shown me in this verse though, that he wants to prepare a table for me and himself to share a meal together. Where does he want to prepare this meal? Right smack dab in the middle of the trial, in the presence of my enemies.
I imagine it something like this: there’s a fancy, two-person table set up in the middle of nowhere, and Jesus is sitting across from me; his eyes are fixed on me. My enemy of anxiety and everything else I battle are spinning all around our table like a flock of birds. I’m so very distracted; I’m looking all around at my enemies as they taunt me, calling me names and throwing rocks at me from afar. But then Jesus gently yet firmly whispers my name, and as I turn my attention back to him, he reaches a soft, strong hand out across the table for me to grab. “When you get scared, just squeeze my hand, I’m right here,” he says, “And my dear, look at all this food I’ve prepared for you! All your favorites. Now look into my eyes- there is nothing but love and grace for you here. Let’s talk, let’s eat and be nourished. I am delighted to simply be here with you. This is the table I have made specially for you and me, and your enemies have no place at it.”
When I realize that this is who Jesus is for us; a God who simply by his loving gaze upon us can bring us to a moment of peace and sweet communion, I wonder, what enemies? This isn’t to discredit the validity of the trials we endure, but friends, Jesus has power in his very presence take our eyes off of the enemies that constantly taunt us and to fix our eyes on himself, the only One who can silence them and save us from them.
So what does this look like in our actual lives? What do we do when anxiety and fear keep us in bed, when the relationship has ended, when the bank account is empty, when our worlds seem to be crumbling around us- when our enemies seem more present than God himself?
Let’s run to his table. Let’s get alone with him and have a conversation something like, “Hey Jesus, all these enemies trying to attack me? Yeah, they’re awful. But I know you’re here at this table you have prepared for me, and I see the love in your eyes, and I’m ready to be nourished by what you have for me here at this table.” Let’s open up His Word and see what he has to say to us amidst our trial. (Check out Psalm 18) Let’s pour our hearts out to him in full honesty, whether that be through journaling, praying, singing, or anything else that allows us to tell God what’s on our hearts. Let’s be strengthened by being still and listening to what he’s saying to us at this table- the words of encouragement, grace, and direction he gives. And let’s rally with our people who also have a fair share of enemies; let’s pray for each other and gently guide each other back to the table.
Our enemies are real and can spin around us so fiercely that we feel utterly helpless. But friends, we have a God who fully sees our battles and who’s heart breaks for us to come to him in them. Whether our sword is drawn and we’re valiantly fighting, or we’re curled up in a ball hiding in a corner (normally me), Jesus invites us to come to his table and be nourished by his presence and the food he uses to strengthen us. He delights in giving us all we need and more in order to enjoy the fullness of his love, even in the presence of our enemies. The one who sits at the table with us, lovingly staring into our eyes, is the same one who conquered death and the enemy himself. And for that, our cup overflows.
Hi friends, my name is Erin and I’m from a tiny town in the “thumb” of Michigan, the mitten state! I go to college at a small school a few short miles from Lake Michigan (study break anyone?). Outdoor adventures, close friends, homes, oceans and lakes, acoustic music, running, traveling, coffee, my mom, natural foods, summer camp, writing, and people with special needs are some of the things that bring me a whole lot of joy. Greater than all these though is the joy I’ve found in knowing Jesus and being known by him, living into the life to the full that he brings.