Are we actually protected when we put our trust in God?
One of the promises that Christianity asserts is that when a person places his or her trust in God, God will watch over them and protect them. God will be their defender and their fortress against life’s storms. This protective language shows up all throughout the Scriptures, and yet there are often times in life when these promises of protection do not sync up with reality. A divine rescue is promised, but then life goes a different direction instead.
For instance, Psalm 91 is one of the most famous protection psalms, assuring the reader that if they “dwell in the shelter of the Most High” they will “not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” If they “rest in the shadow of the Almighty” they needn’t fear “the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” Indeed, they are assured that “a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your hand, but it will not come near you.” Angels will even be summoned to protect them, sparing them from striking their “foot against a stone.”
As beautiful as these promises are they often run counter to our lived experience and it creates a huge problem for people who thought that they were dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, but then crashed in a storm instead. What do we do when wonderful people who love God still experience great calamity?
Please remember something as you study the Scriptures: if you read the Bible long enough the Bible will usually make sense of itself. If you just keep reading, the seeming inconsistencies will become clearer. For instance, at the end of Psalm 91 God begins speaking and He says things like, “He will call on me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him…and show him my salvation.”
So apparently, this righteous, protected person experienced enough hardship to need to cry out to God. Evidently, there would be times when trouble got so deep that this man or woman needed to be rescued when salvation was desperately sought.
In the end, it is not as inconsistent as it initially seems. The promise is not that nothing challenging will ever touch your life. The promise is that when it does you won’t be alone to face it. To be sure, some calamities will bypass you leaving you safe and sound. At other times though they will touch you leaving you in God’s hands to sustain you and carry you through it.
Certainly, this does not solve the entire problem of suffering. Rather, it reminds us to keep on reading because the text will make sense of itself. And it also reminds us that if we do hide in the presence of God, we will ultimately survive the things that are plaguing us today. Someday, today’s crushing will be yesterday’s testimony.