I was invited to speak to three hundred or so high schoolers. I was asked to speak on the theme of dwelling/abiding, and more specifically, the safety and security that comes when we make the Lord our dwelling place and he abides with us. Sounds easy enough, right? But let me ask you, when you think of safety and security, what comes to mind? How do you define safety and security?
It is different around the world, depending on the country and culture in which you live. When it comes to the youth in South Africa, safety and security mean something entirely different to the average teenager in the U.S. Most of these kids—both rich and poor, black and white—live behind high walls and electric fences, and have burglar bars on the windows and rape gates in the hallways of their homes. That is their reality. According to national statistics, they have a one in three chance of contracting HIV, and are more likely to be raped than finish high school. So when I talk to them about abiding in Christ, I cannot promise them earthly safety and security. They—and the whole country—live under a cloud of oppressive fear, mistrust, and hopelessness. Add to that a fierce anger at the economic, political, and sociological injustices that polarize the nation, and you have a recipe for despair. So what do I say to these kids, who will inherit this land?
If I reflect back on our own time in South Africa these past nine years, we have had our car stolen, our home broken into, been mugged, and had our purses stolen four times. I have lost count of how many times the police have tried to intimidate us into paying a bribe. But when people ask us why on earth we left the U.S. to come live here, and Aren't we afraid? our answer is no. By all accounts we should be afraid, but we are not, and I have no explanation for this. It is not because we are heroes, or some kind of missionary super breed of humans (oh no—let me assure you that we are very, very human!). The only answer I have is this: "When you are where God wants you to be, there is no safer place." In other words, there is no safer or more secure place to be than in the will of God.
Being where God wants you to be, doing what he wants you to do, does not mean that you will have physical safety or security. Most of the developing world knows this. What it does mean is that there is a peace beyond all understanding, and that peace comes from dwelling and abiding with God, spending time with him, and developing the intimacy that can only come from knowing that you are absolutely and wholeheartedly loved by him (John 14:27, Jeremiah 31:3). It means that there is security knowing you are exactly where God has placed you (Acts 27:20-25). It means that there is a safety the world cannot possibly understand, a safety that doesn't make sense by earthly reckoning, and a safety that can only come from "hiding in the shadow of God's wings" (Ruth 2:12, Psalm 17:8). It means that the God who created the universe and holds all power in his hands still knows when a sparrow falls to ground (Matthew 10:29) and weeps with us when we lose someone we love (John 11:32-35). And it means that while God does not ordain the evil in this world (Job 34:10, Habakkuk 1:13), he can (and does) redeem it to make something infinitely more beautiful out of it (Isaiah 43:1-3, Genesis 50:20).
I think this is what I will tell those kids.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
- If you take an honest assessment of yourself, where are you currently finding your sense of security? Where do you find your sense of peace being threatened by external circumstances?
- Take a step to anchor your security deeper in God. Choose the statement above about true security that resonates most strongly for you, and spend time this week meditating and reflecting on the scriptures that correspond.
- Respond to these promises of security in prayer, thanking God for the specific promises he has given you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Annie Erickson and her husband, Dan, live in Pretoria, South Africa with their three children. They are a part of CRM's Ethne collective and minister to churches and church leaders in the region.