WHEN MY LITTLE BROTHER in early December fought COVID-19, I waited for what I expected would be a life-or-death phone call.
It was Day 9 on a ventilator, for Cliff. I was told that physicians and nurses were going to try weaning him off the vent.
I’ve been paraphrasing the entire Bible one chapter at a time for The Casual English Bible. That morning, the next chapter I needed to paraphrase happened to be Psalm 91—which reads like a promise that God will fill fix everything. It says he’ll protect us from “predators… deadly disease and plague.”
Well, okay. But I had a dark sense that my brother was dying.
Hard to describe the feeling. It was more than a worry. It felt like a weight in my soul, a depression in my spirit, and a haunting secret I couldn’t tell my family, since most continued spinning positive on every glimmer of hope they read into my brother’s status each day.
Psalm 91 felt like an evil lie.
Against the backdrop of what was happening to my last brother, this psalm read like a cruel joke.
I had two brothers when 2020 started. Our youngest brother died of a heart attack in June. Now, I was in danger of ending the year with no brothers at all.
I couldn’t talk to many in the family about the foreboding. And I certainly couldn’t tell them what I was thinking about Psalm 91. That song was the very promise several were leaning on for God’s assurance that Cliff would get well.
This scenario started to feel like a setup from heaven, maybe a lesson to learn or some kind of hidden treasure to discover, no matter how the story ended.
When I get a feeling like that, I have to get it out of my head. It has to go onto the record. Maybe it’s because of the former newspaper journalist in me. Always chasing truth.
Instead of simply writing about what was happening, I recorded it on a video on Day 12 of what became midway through my brother’s month on the ventilator.
I’ve held up the video, and finally released it last night.
Below is my paraphrase of the happy, hopeful Psalm 91.
With every word I used to express the psalmist’s comforting message, my brother was always on my mind in what felt like the counterpoint—a song sung blue.
And here’s the video I created about the struggle, because I had some of my own words I wanted to add to those of the psalmist.
LIVING UNDER GOD’S WINGS
My shelter in the storm
1 Those of you who live under God’s wings
Are safe in the shadow of the LORD.
2 I look to the LORD and tell him,
“You are my safe house and my storm shelter.
You are my God, and I trust you with all that I am.”
3 He’s the one who rescues you from predators
And from deadly disease and plague.
4 He will shield you,
Nestled in the feathers of his wings.
He’ll surround you with his care,
And it’s something you can count on.
5 You won’t be afraid of the dark
Or of dangers you face every day.
6 You won’t fear sickness that strikes in the night
Or violent devastation in the light of the day.
7 A thousand may die near you.
Ten thousand may fall at your side.
But you remain safe and untouchable.
8 Just watch and see what happens
When it’s time to punish the wicked.
9 You chose the LORD to protect you.
God Most High, he’s my protector, too.
10 Nothing bad is going to happen to you.
Disease isn’t allowed in your house.
11 God will put his angels on notice,
Giving orders to keep you safe.
12 They’ll reach out their hands,
Lift you up, and carry you away in their arms.
You won’t even stub your toe.
13 You’ll walk on lions and cobras,
And stomp them dead in the dirt.
It’s a good, long life for me
14 The LORD has this to say for himself.
“You love me, and I keep you safe.
I lift you up, and away from danger
Because you know me by name.
15 When you call me, I will answer.
When you’re in trouble, I’ll be there.
I’ll come to rescue you
And to honor who you are.
16 I will give you a good, long life
So you’ll see what it’s like to be saved by God.