A couple of weeks ago, my husband lost his job. The day I learned this news, my mom called to tell me that my stepdad has cancer. Again.
This day’s news triggered me and tripped me up as my mind traveled through the past six years of my life and the often-recurring trauma, loss, heartache, and physical suffering. I am astonished that I am still standing.
Or am I? Still, standing?
This thing called “adulting” stinks some days. Some seasons. Some years. Who’s with me? I know a few of you are because I hear from you. Your stories break my heart, and your prayer requests bring me to my knees.
So, there’s a thought that nags. Oftentimes it is there when I pray, and I have only recently allowed myself to swirl it around in my mind to see it for what it is. And then today, I admitted it to God.
Lord, I believe You are good, but I wonder if You are safe.
In the Psalms, we find many verses that tell us God is safe, including the following: Psalm 4:8
“In peace, I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”
Some “safe” synonyms include: protected, sheltered, secure, and out of harm’s way. And these: unharmed, undamaged, unscathed, unhurt.
These “un” words stare coldly back at me as I read them. Because I am not unhurt. You are not unhurt. We are all harmed, damaged, and scathed, aren’t we?
Therefore, what does “safe” look like as a Christ-follower? Is it something we tell ourselves in times of uncertainty (job loss, cancer diagnosis)? “I am safe in His arms.” Is it more than cliches we speak to encourage one another? “God will keep you safe.”
Or are these words true? Yet how can they be when horrifying things happen around us (and sometimes to us) all the time? Several of my worst fears have happened – numerous times. God often (okay, most of the time!) doesn’t run things the way I want Him to. I struggle with this: in trusting Him when life is uncertain and unstable.
This morning, with this stream of consciousness filling my journal pages, I stopped as I recognized that I must define what “safe” means. What does it look like? What does it mean in my spiritual life? When I read the scriptures above and others like them, I question what the Psalmist means by safety. Do we take it as physical protection of the body? In the Old Testament, when the Hebrew people turned away from God, their bodily safety was threatened. The thread of the “if, then” principle runs throughout. If you obey God and follow Him, He will keep you safe. In the Old Testament, The Hebrew word “safety” is translated to mean “a place of refuge (a physical place), security, trust, confidence, hope (a soul-safety).” Oh, how I wish that being a good girl for God means He would keep me and my family safe.
The concept of soul-safety runs deep throughout the New Testament. The number one theme throughout the pages is salvation; spiritual safety is found in one place alone – Jesus Christ. Our Savior said,” And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 ESV
So much of my life, I have sought security in the things of the world – like having enough money, comforts of home, and strong health. These things keep anxiety at bay, yet here is not where my soul finds safety.
And here is the key: in this life filled with “un’s”, His soul-safety comes with His presence. This is what I must remind myself: my interior world is filled with God’s Spirit. He is with me! He never leaves or forsakes me. He sits with me when I look at the vacating bank account. When the illness stays and stays. When the bad news comes. He suffers with me.
Lately, my faith is not standing well. I am not standing well. I am weak and want to be in control. Yet, I find myself kneeling and pouring myself out before Him. I picture myself laying my head on His chest, as I remind myself that I am kept in His precious love. I read His love letter, filled with declarations of His “with-ness”. This is all we have at the end of the day whether we are standing tall or falling to the floor. When it all tumbles, or when it all goes perfectly, He tells us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 ESV
He is with us, and our souls are under lock and key. On this, I can firmly stand.
“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown; that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”
Julian of Norwich