I live in a community where many of my friends went to the same university. Even though we have similar likes and hobbies, and were there at the same time, we didn’t know each other then. (Fun Fact – this includes Good Word Project co-writers Jen, Erin, and me). We joke that once we are in Heaven, we’ll have to ask God to look back through the old video footage to see how often we crossed paths with these future friends.
In that same vein, I wonder if God will also show me the footage of the near misses, the close calls, the twisted tendons instead of the broken bones that He’s been protecting me from. You know, all those times I was a step away from lurking danger.
“The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3
The power of God’s protection first became clear to me while I was doing Beth Moore’s “Daniel” Bible study. The scene of the fiery furnace is forever embedded in my mind. Three Israelite captives, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused to bow down and worship the Babylon King Nebuchadnezzar, thus they were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. Not just any old boiler, but a fire that was so hot that the flames killed the soldiers who led them into the inferno. Yet, quickly King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (paraphrased from Daniel 3:1-25). Not only did God save them from the flames and heat, He sent a fourth, whom many consider to be God incarnate, to dance around with them. Why? Because Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were faithful and glorified their Lord.
Later in the book of Daniel, we read about another rescue mission, this time in the lions’ den:
“King Nebuchadnezzar called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent His angel, and He shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty. The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” (Daniel 6:20-23).
Both of these stories depict extraordinary scenarios that should have resulted in wounds, burns, bites, and death, yet all four men were unharmed. No wounds. Just men shouting praise to God.
As we gather and discuss gratitude this Thanksgiving week, I’m hopeful you will think of the times God showed up for you: Maybe in the midst of the uncomfortable, the lies, and the hurt, how/when did the Lord put a hedge of protection around you? Can you recall a few times that “luck” was upon you for no apparent reason? Or maybe you felt the presence of angels? Do you need to shout some praise to Him?
God’s divine protection isn’t to bubble-wrap us in safety. While living in a fallen world, all of us will incur bumps, bruises, and scars. Including Jesus. He left Earth with nail holes in His hands and feet, stab wound on His side, thorn cuts in His head, and whip marks on His back from 40 lashes less one. Please know I understand and have witnessed really bad stuff happening to good Christians, and that my bruises might feel like the top of the iceberg to many readers, but I believe all suffering, big and small, can result in growing closeness and faithfulness to the Lord.
As you read through mine, I hope it prompts you to make a list of your own times that you knew God has protected you and your loved ones.
• Similar to the stab wound on Jesus’ side, I relish my C-section scars and our infertility struggle. In those years of waiting, God protected me from an unhealthy focus of climbing the steep corporate ladder. Instead, He allowed me to realize the balancing act needed for my personality, my husband’s business, and our desire to be intimately involved with our kids’ lives.
• When He was prompting me to seek deeper friendships, God didn’t let loneliness or rejection burn inside me. Rescuing me from my own fiery furnace, He brought two unlikely sisters, one sixteen years younger, another twenty-three years older, who relate to me spirit-to-spirit and are now entwined as my family.
• By changing where our children would go to school, our community and social world were also disrupted. As God uprooted my feet, which were nailed to comfortable territory, He pushed this evangelist to share the gospel of peace in a new territory. He didn’t allow the “new kids’ mom” name-tag to shake my confidence. Rather, He recruited fabulous women and families to ease the uneasiness, invite me on walks, share vulnerabilities quick in our friendships, and provide eyes over and prayers for our children.
Similar to Daniel staying loyal to his culture and Lord, there are times when I feel like I am in the lion’s den defending my pursuit of Jesus to my family of origin: from quieting what I want to say, hesitating when I want to evangelize, even pausing before I forward our Good Word Project blogs. Recently, it feels like God gave me a gift: 40-weeks with a spiritual power-house that I discovered is part of my blood lineage. By giving me time to be in this relationship, fully aware it was the last weeks of his life, prompted urgency to gain the wisdom in each call, and savoring words which will forever comfort my family of four.
“Faith in the furnace is like gold in the fire. The heat only serves to refine it, purify it, strengthen it, deepen it. It emerges with a brighter, purer quality.” (The Family Wins devotional, Walking Closer to God. October 22).Hindsight is always clearer, and I too want to praise God for His glory around giving me these battle scars. Each is a result of struggle. Each was surrounded by discomfort and sadness while I was going through it. I don’t like wrestling with the Lord. It is humbling. It is tearful. It is exhausting. Yet, each time He takes me to the mat, I walk away a better version of Kristie. I have a better understanding of how He wants to use me in this world. I feel His unconditional love. I am protected and powerful in His armor. I can stand in victory, knowing that the enemy DID NOT take new territory in these struggles.
I look forward to the day I compare and laugh about my battle scars with Jesus.
Please pray with me – by personalizing this Psalm with your first name:
“Because Kristie (change to your name) loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she acknowledges My name. She will call on me, and I will answer her; I will be with her in trouble, I will deliver her and honor her. With long life I will satisfy her and show her my salvation.” Amen (Psalm 91:14-16)
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