You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalms 23:5
Have you ever wondered why in this text God doesn’t destroy or just get us far away from the enemy? Instead, he throws a feast “in the presence of my enemies.” The promise of God is not to remove us from every danger and difficulty; it is to be with us through them all. I think this verse is an invitation to complete trust. It isn’t normal to feast while in danger.
When your mind senses danger, your sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear. We know this body response as “fight or flight.” Heart rate, digestion, breathing, and many more body functions are inhibited to allow you to escape or defend yourself from danger. The enemy’s presence near this feast might be a justification for sympathetic nervous system response. How are we supposed to digest this feast when a threat looms in front of us?
The opposite of the fight or flight response is the parasympathetic response. Your body releases endorphins, and the brain lights up in your prefrontal cortex. When someone is in parasympathetic mode, they are at peace, joy, and rest. This Psalm describes a person in danger at peace and rest. It speaks of the tremendous safety we can find in the presence of God. Imagine being able to joyfully digest a feast in the middle of a war zone. That would require a host who is so strong and comforting that you can be at rest despite the circumstances.
Do you feel at peace right now? Do you feel joy and rest? If you do, take a moment to thank God that you can feast in the presence of your enemies; if you don’t feel that now, perhaps you can turn your meals into a spiritual practice this week. Ask God to give you peace as you eat. Ask him to help your body experience the parasympathetic joy of trust each time you eat. Perhaps, if life is tough right now, find a way to create a special meal to celebrate God’s trustworthiness through every season.