5.21.2018

God Does Not Promise Safety on This Side of Glory


My older kids have a fanciful imagination when it comes to serial killers.  My wife, who is very scientific, has very frank conversations with them about who some of the most notorious ones have been, what drives their behaviors, and how to behave should you come face to face with one.  I on the other hand, notwithstanding my love for such shows as Criminal Minds and Dexter, tend to avoid such talk, lofting in an attempt at reassurance of safety in the form of "Jesus will protect you."
This is of course a true statement.  One of the great images in the Bible is in the Psalms, where God is described as a great eagle under whose mighty wings we can take shelter.  It is a dear promise that countless Christians have clung to and found assurance in.  And of course there are many other such verses and images that give the Christian comfort concerning God's protecting hand.
But as my kids get older, it is important for me to level with them that in fact God does not promise safety on this side of glory.  Life on earth is marred by so much destruction and devastation that to only be able to believe in a good God if you are not physically or emotionally harmed is to either live a precarious faith existence or to be unbelievably privileged to have avoided harm so far in your life. 
Bad things happen.  Children are abused, people are assaulted, and lives are taken far too soon by gun violence and car accidents and drug overdose.  Serial killers do exist, as do predators, sadists, and mass shooters.  None of these things negate the existence of a good, loving, and all-powerful God who has promised to protect us. 
I know people of faith whose lives have been shattered by violence, torture, and manipulation, to the breaking point of their souls and their very sense of safety and identity.  On this side of glory, God does not shield us from unspeakable pain.  But He does protect us at our core and keep us until glory. 

The strongest people I know have endured unimaginable horrors.  They are strong in spite of these wounds, and they are strong in the faith because of these wounds, for they have been sifted down to a deep and abiding faith in a God who is always with us and who will render ultimate justice in the end.
I have used this analogy before but it bears repeating.  For as limitless as we purport to consider our conception of God, in reality what we do is create a bubble within which our world makes sense.  But life intervenes and pierces a mighty hole in that bubble.  Our response can be to scramble to rebuild that bubble, which feels safe but shrinks our faith.  Or it can be to expand our understanding of God to include the thing that rocked our world, which is painful but grows our faith.
God promises many things, but safety on this side of glory is not one of them.  We can and do of course pray for Him to keep us and our children safe, and we ought to do so fervently and faithfully.  But there are times we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and it is likely that it will be through many tribulations that we march towards the kingdom of God.  May God have mercy on us all, made He keep us safe, and when life intervenes and pierces us deeply, may we hold on to that abiding and life-giving hope that even when all seems lost we have already been found and are never alone.
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