02 December 2014

Don't Pray for Safety

Our family has moved a lot, and we've had some wild reactions when announcing each relocation.

When we moved to the Middle East in 2005,
"Be careful over there. There is a war going on, you know."

When we moved to Thailand in 2006,
"Aren't they in the middle of a coup? Is that a good idea?"

When we moved to South Korea in 2009,
"What if North Korea attacks? Do you have a plan?"

And while these well-intentioned comments were meant to keep me safe, they instead ignited a fear.

Oh, maybe it would be safer to stay in America. Maybe we should not go after all.

Whenever these fearful thoughts about safety seep in (even now), I remember a troubled night I had before this overseas trek began. I remember how God showed me what's important and how better to pray in these sometimes hostile situations.

We were just weeks away from our departure flight across the world, and a nagging thought kept punching fear back into my gut. What if we die over there?

It's possible.

It's dangerous. Everyone says so. It's unfamiliar. It's far from home. It's unsafe.

Then, I woke up in the middle of the night with a severe pain in my stomach. Oh, it stabbed at me sharper than the fear I'd been battling for days. I remembered my friend saying that if you're ever afraid it's your appendix, you should jump up and down to see if it gets worse. (I still don't know if this is true.) So there I was, at 3am, jumping up and down beside my bed to see if my appendix was about to rupture.

It didn't. I laid back down. Then in the full weight and pain of the moment, this truth surfaced in my heart: "Yes, I could die over there. But I could die right here." It wasn't a menacing thought. In fact, it was comforting. It was a reminder that I am mortal and that every day--every moment--is a gift.

God preserves us for a purpose. He is as in control of death as He is of creation.
Have we forgotten the resurrection? 

He chooses when His saints come home to heaven. For some, it seems too soon. James, one of the Sons of Thunder, was killed right as the early church was expanding (Acts 12:2). Jim Eliot was killed before the Huaorani people accepted the gospel. Earlier this year, my high school classmate died in childbirth.

For some, death seems defied. Jairus' daughter "woke up" when Jesus came to her (Mark 5:41). Church tradition says that the apostle John was exiled to Patmos because he couldn't be killed. My dad has walked away from gunpoint, unharmed.

But for all, death is an uncertainty . . . because we don't know when it will be or how it will happen. So we fear it, and some of us live running as far from it as possible. Some of us refuse risk because it means leaving the "safety" we know.

But maybe we have this backwards. What if safety isn't avoiding death but rather accepting it?

On every day, can we accept that we live in a fallen world--with thorns, diseases, and disasters?
In every place, can we see that death is just as likely here as there?
For every person, can we likewise rejoice in life wherever it is gifted?
And in every moment, can we accept death--
our own eventual physical passing and the harder dying to self?

Because: Isn't it only in the surrender of ourselves that we are resurrected in Christ's likeness?
And: How can we surrender ourselves if we live in fear of unsafe conditions?

God preserves us for a purpose.

Remember the fig tree. When it produced no fruit, Jesus cursed it, and it died. It had no purpose left, so it was removed. If you're still on earth, you have purpose. If God has work for you to do yet, you will not die.

But sometimes, God takes us for a purpose instead. When God deems your passing as more glorifying for Him than your living, you will step from this broken world into His perfect presence.

So maybe safety isn't the right prayer: for me, for you, for missionaries, for anyone. Instead, let's pray for obedience, fruitfulness, thankfulness, and wisdom. Let's pray that we live according to the Spirit of the law, in step with Jesus, and unafraid of what circumstances are (always) fully in God's control. And let's plead for the trust necessary to scrape ourselves free of fear.

My family lives overseas, just a few miles south of the DMZ. But the same rules apply to all Christians everywhere. Live responsibly, wisely, and prudently--because our lives are not our own. God has bought us with a price. And live boldly, confidently, and sacrificially--because our lives are not own own. God allows our every breath with His will. We need to stop living fearfully, praying selfishly, and surrendering conditionally.

Instead of hiding from death, can we accept it? 
Can we trade in safety for the security of an obedient surrender? 

We can never control our circumstances, but we can give ourselves to the One who controls everything.

Abide in Him,

Does risk scare you too? What are some promises of God that we can grab as we live in fallen world, even as we knowingly walk into danger?

Related articles you may also appreciate:
Just Obey: My cry to my kids and God's to me
Good Works, Faith, and the Fruitless Fig Tree
Phrases That Steal Praise: Dissecting Christianese


  1. God can be trusted no matter what our circumstances are. No. After where we find ourselves, we need to remember that God is in control. When life is "easy and safe" we think we have everything under control. When life falls apart, we cry out to the Lord. Truth is, we need the Lord desperately no matter what is going on around us! I love your faith journey. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for this perspective. Learning to lean into God for all our needs is helpful in learning to trust God. "Do not fear those that can kill the body. ...often gave me peace as I moved around in a country of violence.

    1. Linda, that is the perfect verse for this post. Thank you!

    2. Linda, that is the perfect verse for this post. Thank you!


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