God Makes Us Vulnerable and Invincible
Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.(Psalm 91:5)
You can see it in our locks, our gates, our motion sensors, our alarm systems. It’s evident from the endless passwords, the extra digits on the back of a credit card, and the x-ray machines and full-body scans at the airport.
We have our seat belts and airbags, our helmets, pads, and face masks. We have insurance policies, retirement plans, and social security. Some carry pepper spray, or mace, or a whistle on a key chain. It affects what we eat, where we go, how much we exercise, who we talk to, what we say, how we live.
We are desperate for an enduring sense of safety and security.
We Are Vulnerable
Whatever rugged, seemingly fearless veneer we may be able to muster on the outside, deep down inside we know we are vulnerable. To be human is to be vulnerable — ever exposed to attack, natural disaster, miscalculation, sabotage, disease, heart failure, and more. We long to feel safe, but life in this world is fraught with risks and dangers — even when we refuse to leave the house.
We have our modern ways and technological means for seeking safety, but the ache for security is no recent development. In the ancient world, cities built walls, kings dug moats, and soldiers wore armor and carried shields.
And yet as deep as the drive is for safety in the human heart, we have no guarantees of it in this life. As much as we’d like to think that God will protect those who love him from any trouble whatsoever befalling us, we know this is clearly not true from experience or from the Bible. God does not promise earthly safety to his children in this life. Though he did wire our hearts to long for security — not to find it in this world, but in him.
Not Alone, Abandoned, or Destroyed
Better than mere temporal security, which would leave us resting safely for a mere seventy or eighty years, the promise God makes to his people in Psalm 91, and all over the Bible, is our ultimate security — that no matter what befalls us in this world, God has us in his hand. He knows. He cares. He is working life’s greatest dangers and harshest pains for your ultimate good.
Psalm 91 doesn’t promise that the worst this world has to offer won’t come upon God’s people, but that when it does, we are not alone, abandoned, or destroyed. His grace is too dynamic and powerful to simply keep us out of harm’s way; he sustains us in hardship and brings us through to ultimate safety. The safety we receive from God doesn’t mean there won’t be great pain — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Being raised up on eagles’ wings doesn’t mean that the baby bird never left the nest, but that when he was flailing and falling from the sky, unable to fly on his own and save himself, his mother swept in to the rescue.
Jesus experienced great pain physically, and even greater turmoil emotionally as he bore our sin and felt forsaken by his Father. But the promises of Psalm 91 gave him the spiritual wherewithal to move toward the pain of Calvary, not run from it. He knew God would be with him in the greatest trouble, and that his Father would raise him up to the glory of his right hand. “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him” (Psalm 91:15).
He Will Raise You Up
Psalm 91 finds its fullest fulfillment in Jesus, and we abide in the shadow of the Almighty by abiding in Jesus. We dwell in the shelter of the Most High by taking shelter, by faith, in God’s Son (Psalm 91:1). We say to Jesus, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2). Our desperation for an enduring sense of safety and security was not meant to find its home in this world. But we were meant to truly find a refuge and fortress — in God himself, through his Son, who resisted the tempter’s quotation of Psalm 91 against him.
Jesus knew that God’s promise of angels guarding him (Psalm 91:11–12) wouldn’t keep him from the cross, but that his Father would raise him up. Jesus would strike against the stone at Calvary, but in doing so, he would “tread on the lion” and “trample [the serpent] underfoot” (Psalm 91:13). In Christ, we need not fear the terror of the night, the arrow that flies by day, or any pestilence or destruction (Psalm 91:5–6) — not because we’re immune to hardship in this world, but because we will be brought safely through them into ultimate security.
God doesn’t pledge to keep us from all worldly suffering and trouble, but he does promise to be with us, rescue us in his perfect timing, and graciously honor us for walking the path of pain with a heart of faith.
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.