family’s home when I was younger. I still to this day can picture the evening when my
brother and I sat on the roof of our house, looking out ominously over the neighborhood
as fires burned across the hillsides surrounding us. The orange swaths which cut across
the darkened hills seemed to stretch on for miles all around us, and the smell of smoke
filled the air for weeks. Fortunately, we were not among the many thousands in the
outlying parts of the county who had to evacuate their homes. Even though the fires raged
all around us, ultimately we were saved by God’s grace.
Psalm 91 is a famous passage which offers protection and reassurance to those who
trust in the Name of the LORD Most High. Is says, in part, “If you say, ‘The LORD is
my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no
disaster will come near your tent.” While many of us cling to this promise during times of
testing and hardship, how often during times of peace and prosperity does it casually slip
to the back of our minds?
My cousin Sergio served as a Marine Corps infantryman in Afghanistan. Before he left,
our whole family covered him in countless hours of prayer, and gave him numerous
reminders of the promise of Psalm 91. Upon his return, not only were we overjoyed to
see him home safely (praise God), but he also had numerous stories to tell us about the
supernatural protection of God in the midst of untold danger and hardship. One particular
story, which I want to be sensitive about sharing, involved a miraculous deliverance from
death. His patrol was caught in the open when they were ambushed by Taliban fighters,
and while most of the platoon was able to sprint to safety, he and a few at the tail of the
column were isolated on open ground. Right then, one Taliban fighter popped up with
a rocket-propelled grenade and fired. Sergio said that in that very moment, he resigned
himself to death, saying silently, “LORD, here I come.” At that moment, as the rocket
was screaming toward him and his fellow marines, it very suddenly took a nosedive and
hit the dirt harmlessly a few dozen yards in front of them.
Over and over throughout the deployment, Sergio was faced with death and destruction
all around him, and the prayer of Psalm 91 became very literal. Yet time and again, when
death seemed about to close in around him and his fellow Marines, the LORD came
through with all kinds of grace at the exact moment it was needed.
When you’re in a life or death situation, it becomes very natural to depend on God,
because who else can save you when bullets are flying? Yet in our daily lives, we all
too often are faced with less-than-life-threatening situations, and somehow forget that
the same God who moves bullets also moves the daily hardships out of your life as well.
While Sergio has since gotten out of the Corps and moved on with his life, he will be the
first to tell you that he has never forgotten the lessons of Afghanistan, or that fact that any
problem he encounters in civilian life is far less serious than anything he faced overseas.
Living on the edge with God for a while has a way of turning down the volume on all of
your normal problems.
If today you’re encountering a situation which seems life-altering and dire to you,
remember that fires may rage, and seas may roar and foam, but your GOD is with you
like a mighty warrior with a hedge of protection.
Whatever else you’re trusting in for stability, whether it be a government, a relationship,
a plan for your future, or anything else that seems to provide reassurance in your
life, remember that one day that thing will burn to ashes. Yet the LORD will remain
throughout the ages, and his peace will follow you in the midst of the uprooting and the
tearing down of all that you hold dear.
My devotion reading this week has focused intensely on Jeremiah. One theme that has
been made clear to me over and over again is that no system or government established
by man is immune to the decree of the LORD, and when he decrees disaster, it will fall.
Although the LORD spends the first 30ish chapters of Jeremiah prophesying destruction
and uprooting for Israel, yet in Jeremiah 31 he begins to remind them of his loving
kindness, and he promises that he will be with them still, even in the midst of destruction.
One thing I learned from the disaster that was my last relationship is that, at the bottom
of everything, when all you had hoped for and trusted in lies in ashes, God will still be
there. He is more present in that situation than he ever could be when you’re surrounded
by false pretenses of security.
Burn it all down, and then you’ll see that God is still God when nothing else is left
standing. Don’t fear the fires on the hillside, for “he who dwells in the shelter of the Most
High will rest in the shadow of the wings of the Almighty.”
“Remain in me,” says Jesus, “and I will remain in you.”