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Tuesday, March 15

Psalm 91:9-10 (NRSV)

Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
    the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall befall you,
    no scourge come near your tent.


In the novel Beloved, Toni Morrison writes about Baby Suggs, an enslaved Black woman who gives her sermons in the forest instead of a church. From her stump pulpit, Baby Suggs urges the children to laugh, the men to dance, and the women to cry. By expressing their rawest emotions, the worshippers dwell in the Lord.

To merely tell her congregation to take refuge in God would be to provide a false assurance of safety. Morrison recognizes the white supremacy that stains scripture and society. Enslaved Black Americans who dwelt in the Lord still lost their lives to the violence of slavery despite promises like those in Psalm 91.

Bad things happen to good people. It’s a reality particularly poignant for marginalized groups—good people don’t have access to healthcare, good people get murdered, good people lose loved ones to addiction. So why does Psalm 91 promise “no evil shall befall” those who take refuge in the Lord? Why does the Bible make promises it can’t keep?

I think Psalm 91 represents a human wish rather than a divine promise—we hope that if we lead faithful lives then pain will pass over us. In reality, dwelling in the Lord prepares us to confront inevitable loss with resilience. As Morrison writes, “the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine.” When Baby Suggs tells her people to laugh, dance, and cry, she recognizes that grief is already in the tent. It’s best to take refuge in the Lord nonetheless.


Dear God, help us to laugh, dance, and cry in the face of pain. In doing so, may we dwell in all that you are. Amen.

Abby Comey