Confession: My Journey in Confronting Phony Beliefs
By Kayla Rundquist
I love Psalms. First off, as the legendary John Mulaney points out, when you say the word “Psalms” it sounds like you’re saying “Songs”, but it’s “Psalms” (with a silent ‘P’), juuuuust close enough to keep you on your toes. You’re supposed to mishear it. That was always funny to me as a kid.
For anyone not raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Psalms is a book of the Bible containing one hundred and fifty poems. Yes, poems. The Bible ain’t just a bunch of lengthy genealogies and hard-to-pronounce names (though it’s got plenty). These poems were mostly written by the *original angsty teen* King David—some before the “King” was added to his name.
King David is also a pretty important dude in the Judeo-Christian tradition. But I don’t love the Psalms because King David is important. I love the Psalms because they are real. They are raw. These poems do not hold back. Some of them were written by David when he was on the run for his life, hiding in a cave. Some were written while he was being crushed under the weight of guilt for killing a man. Some were written after his own sons killed each other. David was not just a little boy throwing rocks at a giant. These poems are so strongly worded you’re almost not sure if they’re allowed to be in the Bible.
When I read the Psalms, I like to imagine David as though he’s a Shakespearean actor doing a soliloquy on a blank stage. It helps me to connect with the raw emotion of each stanza, the God’s-honest-truth that David is speaking in some of his most vulnerable moments. It helps me to remember that this guy was a real person, and he felt real pain, like me.
One Psalm has been on my mind a lot lately—the 46th Psalm, and it reads
“God is our refuge and strength,
An ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
And the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…” (Psalm 46:1-2)
When I am anxious or afraid, I like to recite Bible verses to calm myself, and this Psalm certainly works for that. But a few months ago I was reciting this verse to myself, and I kind of stopped mid-way. And I had to think about it for a moment. Because a few months ago, as we all know, was the beginning of what is now the Coronavirus Pandemic. I had been worrying about this sickness back in January when it was on the other side of the world, I had been worrying when my co-worker who was visiting family in China returned, I had been worrying when the numbers in America started stacking up, and when the hospital closest to my house reported the first Covid-19 death in L.A. County. And here I was saying to myself “I will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…” But those are just nice words in a comforting poem. Until they’re not.
I had to stop then, and confront the fact that I was speaking a lie. I could not honestly say that I wasn’t afraid of what was going to happen, that I wasn’t afraid that millions might die and the government might cease to function and the world might turn into a post-apocalyptic wasteland… if I followed my train of anxiety-fueled fear to its uttermost end, then the world I saw was completely changed from the one I know. And I had to ask myself… what then? If governments fall (which they do) and people die (which they do) and my life is radically—I mean unimaginably—changed… would I still trust God?
I know for many of you this might be a chuckle and a shake of the head. Maybe trusting God isn’t your thing to begin with, maybe you don’t really buy into the “God” thing. I respect that. In essence, that was really what I was confronting in myself. A phony faith. I realized that I had never in my young life faced a possibly world-altering event that came as close to me as the Covid-19 Pandemic did. Our ancestors experienced plenty of these—WW II was pretty world-shattering, the Black Plague left its mark on the world, the Cold War very nearly turned the earth into a post-apocalyptic wasteland… but in my 21st Century life, I realized that I had never really come face to face with this question:
Will my faith stand up if all of the systems, protections, comforts, and expectations by which I live are stripped away? And furthermore…. If it doesn’t stand up… is it really faith at all?
When I find cracks in my relationship with the Lord, my first instinct is to try and duct-tape them shut, as if God wouldn’t notice if I paint over them real quick. But, of course He does, and He gently reminds me to bring those cracks, those flaws, those fears, to His feet. To confess my fear. Scary word, I know. But it’s also one of the most comforting words in the Bible. There is no comfort so good as when I realize what the problem is, and I confess it to the Lord, laying it at his feet and saying, “I cannot fix this. Please help.”
And God promises to help. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Ohhh boy what a great verse!! That is a promise I have repeated to myself many many times when the condemning thoughts come, when the Prince of Lies tries to tell me that God’s done with me. As soon as I confess the problem, the struggle, the issue, the failure… God is right there with his soap and water, ready to wash my wounds.
So I bring this phony faith before the Lord. And I tell Him, “God, to be honest, I like my comfortable, structured life. I like the expectation that the government I live under will still be here in twenty years. I like to think that I will be able to work at a steady job, and keep food on my table, and keep my family safe in years to come. But… if that isn’t the case… if my worst fears come true… if my life is irrevocably changed by this or any other world disaster… help me to trust you even then. Lord knows I cannot do it on my own.”
Maintaining this perspective has been one of the greatest comforts for me the last few months. The funny thing is, the week that Covid-19 was declared a Global Pandemic by the WHO, was a craaaazzzyyy week for me. I blew a tire on my car, and my church leaders had a big fight, and there was a roach at my work, and my sink started leaking, and my dogs got in a fight with a pitbull… But I was calmer than I had been in a month. God gave me peace, and perspective. Because once you face the uttermost end of your fears—the absolute worst possible outcome, and you still choose to trust in the Lord with all your heart… then nothing else can touch you. God makes sure of it. Even if the earth gives way and the mountains tumble into the heart of the sea. I. Will. Not. Fear.
I’m not saying I haven’t had anxiety since then. I’m not tryna be a liar. But when I remember this perspective, the Lord helps me to stop in the middle of my fear. To say, “Even so, I will trust You.”
There has been, and there is sure to be, many times when my trust in the Lord will be tested. On April 25th, my grandmother in New Jersey lost her life to Covid-19. She had been battling dementia for years, and this disease was too much for her body. Coronavirus has been circling me for months, and it finally hit where I feared most—my family. Praise the Lord my grandmother gave her life to Jesus just a year before she was diagnosed with Dementia, after my father and his brother had been praying for and witnessing to and demonstrating love to her for fifty years. Fifty Years. Talk about trusting the Lord. So it is with comfort that I know He has forgiven her sins and cleansed her from all unrighteousness, and welcomed her into His rest.
My faith has been the most intrinsic part of my life—the thread that has followed me through every stage. But it has been weak, and wobbly, and uncertain at times, and it has been as thin as a single strand at times. The beautiful thing is, the Bible also says that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. I encourage you, then, if you are ever fearful, like me, if you ever experience anxiety, like me, if you ever question what your purpose is, like me… take it to the Lord. If you don’t know how to do that, pick up a Bible, or ask a friend for one, or ask me for one! And turn to the Psalms. David’s poems are prayers, they are cries for help, they are confessions, they are songs of praise. Try reading, and praying those words, even if you haven’t cracked the spine on a Bible your entire life… even if you have turned your back on ‘religion’. Jesus doesn’t want religion from you, he wants a relationship with you. And I hope that you will be able to experience the great comfort that I have experienced in walking this difficult, painful, confusing life with Someone who knows you completely, and loves you completely.
The rest of that Psalm says this:
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day…
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
MEET the author : KAYLA RUNDQUIST
Kayla is a writer, actor, and stage director, who graduated from Bethel University with degrees in English for Writing and Theatre Arts; she lives in Los Angeles County, but grew up in inner city Chicago and has a great love for her beautiful home city.
Kayla is a published playwright and short story author with works including Like Watchmen,andThe Cause of His Death,and she served as the Managing Editor ofThe Crossings literary magazine for two years. Above all she writes to honor the Lord, and seeks in everything to demonstrate the love of Jesus to those around her.