The Lord Will Rescue Me From Every Evil Attack
My husband and I are raising two young kids in the Middle East. By choice.
That raises more than a few eyebrows. We love our host country, our neighborhood, and our neighbors. We know God is with us and He has guided us here. But there’s no escaping the fact that we do live in a part of the world rife with uncertainty. A region terrorized by ISIS, facing the needs of millions of displaced people. A region where toddlers wash up on the shore.
But glance at world news headlines and it becomes evident that uncertainty and danger aren’t confined to the Middle East.
Shortly after we moved away from Boston, Massachusetts, there was a terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon – a short walk from my husband’s former workplace. Suburban American schools implement safety procedures in case of a school shooting. Car accidents, a doctor’s diagnosis… we all know the potential for a phone call to change our lives forever.
The idea of a safe world has always been an illusion.
So what do you tell yourself as you read the headlines and feel fear creeping in? What do I tell my kids in the quiet moments as I tuck them into bed?
1. “No matter what happens, Jesus is with us.”
When my daughter was in first grade she had a recurring nightmare that bad men came into our house and were attacking me and my husband. She would wake up in the night and come to our room to check on us, crying.
“Mom, are we going to be ok? What if something happens to you or to Daddy?” It was a poignant question at the time because, though I’m sure she didn’t know this, some local believers in our country had been attacked in the night and forced to flee from their home.
As a mom, I wished I could say “Don’t worry darling – nothing’s going to happen to us.” But it’s not in my power to promise something I can’t control.
One of the gifts I’ve received over the past few years in the Middle East is a more robust understanding of the theology of suffering. Paul writes of his hardships in a letter to Timothy, saying:
“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:17-18).
Paul writes “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack.” If the sentence ended there, what message does that send to victims of terrorist attacks? to those who live through shooting sprees? Sounds like the prosperity gospel. But Paul continues, “AND will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.”
If we zoom out from the oft-quoted Jeremiah 29:11 about God’s “plans to bring you hope and a future,” we understand that those plans include walking through the shadow of death into our ultimate safety, face to face with Jesus. Through death – safely – into heavenly glory. Now that’ll preach!
Our theology of safety, then, rests on the nearness of God. “The Lord stood by my side and gave me strength” (v17). He doesn’t watch from afar. In hardship, the Lord is at our side. Emmanuel. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Is. 43:2).
Here’s what I replied that night to my worried daughter:
“Darling, no matter what happens, Jesus is with us. He’s real. And He promises never to leave us. He’s here with us right now, and He will always be with us.”
2. “One day everything will be made right.”
The Bible’s meta-narrative tells us that though we live in a broken world, it will not always be so. God’s justice is rock-steady comfort in a world full of evil.
I’ve often gone back to God’s description of himself from Exodus 34 – both with those I’m discipling and for my own soul. He proclaims himself: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (34:6-7).
God doesn’t wave a wand over terrorism and rape and violence: “Never mind, it’s all forgiven.” NO! While he forgets the sin of those in Christ (amazing!), he remembers our tears and will demand an account for every evil act.
I’ve become very open in telling my kids I don’t know why bad things happen. They see child refugees in the cold with no coats. They see kids picking through trash during school hours. “Why did they have to leave their homes, and they couldn’t even take their favorite toys?”
“I don’t know,” I tell them, as the mother heart rises up in me, “It’s not right, and it makes God very sad. But one day He will make it all right.”
In His Kingdom tears are no more. Justice is done once and forever. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into His city, and in that place of ultimate safety the gates are never shut, because there is nothing to fear. No evil. No darkness. No more night. Everything once and for all, put right.
3. “Let’s talk with God about it.”
The best way to lay fear to rest on a dark night is to talk about it with Jesus.
I know it sounds obvious, but I have to continually remind myself to take all these things to him in prayer.
“God, we can’t understand why these things are happening. But we know you’re with us. And one day it will all make sense – you will make everything right. So please, Jesus, we’re asking that you would start making it right, right now. Please comfort every person who has lost someone they love. Please give coats to children that need them. Please stop the people doing these terrible things, and show them who You are.”
Don’t click away from a horrific news story without taking a moment to talk with Jesus about it. Don’t let your mind wander into despair or fear. Take those thoughts captive and bring them to Jesus.
Last spring I woke up one morning and overheard my kids talking about heaven in another room.
(I wake up plenty of mornings to the dulcet tones of sibling fighting, so this was a definite improvement.)
My daughter said: “In heaven there’s no fighting.”
My son: “Yup, and no getting angry.”
Girlie: “And the best thing is there’s absolutely NO crying.”
With that she took on an older sister teaching tone. “You know, everybody dies. There’s nothing you can do about it. But you get to see Jesus.” She paused, then:
“It’s going to be GREAT.”
A version of this post first appeared on ToWinSome.com, a cross-cultural website founded and edited by Grace Henry.