Has there ever been a time where you were afraid for your personal safety?
One of my most fearful moments happened on a day in January 2004, two and a half years after 9/11. The Northeast division of the Salvation Army paid to have me fly to their corporate office for a final interview and job training before I began a curriculum writing project for them. I wondered what it would be like to fly into the New York City area so soon after the city experienced the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
As we pulled into the small airport north of the city for my return flight, I got my answer. National guard surrounded our car and asked us to open the trunk. Other National guard stood erect at the entrances, guns poised. Dogs sniffed through luggage and scrutinized patrons.
It had been a long, tiring yet exhilarating day. I was hungry, my brain was stuffed with new information, I didn’t feel well, and I was ready to go home. The tense alertness frightened me. This wasn’t a news report. This was real. Having lived through the worst, these people knew the potential of what could happen, and they were ready to take it on.
What was I afraid of?
I think what concerned me most was how I would cope if there was a tragedy. Would I be able to care for my own personal safety? Would others be around to help or even realize I was more vulnerable and restricted because of my limited eyesight? How could I protect myself? Was God big enough to protect me?
Oddly enough, I did feel protected. Since, at that time, I carried a white cane to identify my visual limitation, I sensed airline personnel were extra attentive, making sure I was never left alone. Their vigilance reminded me that while I bore some responsibility to keep myself safe, my personal safety was not entirely up to me. Others were watching out for me and ultimately, God had the ultimate power to protect, prevent and provide.
Personal safety is currently a major topic of discussion. After the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, many churches, including mine, discussed security measures to keep their people safe. At a recent women’s fellowship, we told a group of women what our church leadership has done so far. Next month, we’re bringing in a speaker to teach us about personal safety – how to keep ourselves safe during a personal attack or an active shooter situation.
Shouldn’t Christians trust God to take care of them?
Yes. But that doesn’t mean we do nothing. God did not always tell his people to be passive when an enemy threatened them.
God used different methods to keep his people safe when they are threatened:
- Avoidance: He ordered the Israelites to take a circuitous route to avoid the Amalekites because the Israelites were not ready to fight.
- Passivity: God instructed His people to move on through the Red Sea while He came behind them and overcame the Egyptians.
- Show of Power: Can you imagine how someone living behind the walls of Jericho might have felt as the Israelite army did nothing more than march around the perimeter?
- Inadequate resources: God insisted Gideon’s army use limited or unconventional warfare.
- Combative engagement: David initiated the fight with Goliath but made it clear the source of his strength was from God.
In each of these situations, the people fully recognized one central truth: the battle was the Lord’s.
Here’s the assurance we need as we face our own battles.
Hezekiah, the King of Judah gave this reassurance to his people when the Assyrian army camped at their doorstep:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” – 2 Chronicles 32:7,8
David told Goliath:
“Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” – 1 Samuel 17:47
But doesn’t the Bible say we shouldn’t trust in the tools of men but in God?
We use the tools, whatever they may be, to protect ourselves and the weak among us. We can engage and distract the enemy. But we don’t put our trust solely in our own ability or in the tool we use. Salvation ultimately comes from God. He is the one we trust to save us when our personal safety is threatened.
The most important aspect of ensuring our personal safety is this: Don’t be afraid! Your God can and will protect you. Even if the worst thing happens – you are involved in an active shooter situation and live to tell about it – God can bring you through. He will protect you, He will keep you from being ensnared. He will heal the emotional damage brought about by the trauma.
As we step forward to deescalate the situation, we can trust In God’s superior strength that is greater than any assailant. No need to stay home from church, shopping, or school. He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world. Your personal safety is in His very capable, powerful, and loving hands.
So be a David. Don’t let the enemy ruin the reputation of God your Deliverer by your show of fear. Use what resources, skills, and wisdom you have, then leave the results to God.