I want to share something I wrote today. I was asked this question
“I know that the Lord is near, but how do I know that I am safe?”
This was asked in a context where it was easy for me to assume this person was a Christian, so here is how I responded. This was written in an email, and I added to this a bit afterwards to make it more clear:
Thank you for asking this question. I think it’s a great question to ask because it recognizes that, while God is near, what Jesus said is true, “in this world you will have trouble.” Sometimes we know God is near, but we can still become afraid of the future.
I believe the same way you know you are “safe” is the same way you know you are loved. How do we know we are loved except by faith? Whenever I doubt God’s love for me, I try to remember that he became a human forever. That thought for me has been huge in feeling loved by God. His death on the cross is something I don’t think I understand or identify with well, partly because I have not experienced a lot of suffering, partly because sometimes I wonder how hard it was for God to suffer, him being God and all. I’m sure it was not easy. I’m just saying it’s hard for me to think I understand it. But as for becoming human, that is something I understand, and there is no going back for Jesus. God will never not be a human. He loves us that much. And he can’t forsake us because he cannot forsake himself! (2 Tim 2:13).
So as for knowing that he will keep us “safe” I believe it has to do with knowing he loves us. All of us doubt God’s love from time to time. Adam and Eve doubted his love, which is what got us into this mess. The Israelites doubted God’s love constantly. So, one of the major lessons from the Bible is, “You will be tempted to doubt God’s love, but instead, always trust in his love.” We need to learn this over and over, every day.
But I think it also helps for us to define what “safe” means. God does give us more than we can handle, because we have him, and only he is able to handle it all. I truly believe that what it means for God to keep us safe is that he will never bring us through more than what we need to always trust in him and be able to do his will. If we truly believe that God is in full control, and that he knows exactly what you need, you can rest knowing he will never allow more hardship than is necessary, for your good, and his glory. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
This definition, though, allows for a lot of suffering! I believe we do each other harm as Christians by simply saying God will “protect us” without defining what it means that he will protect us from. Simply promising that God will keep us “safe” leaves our hearers unprepared for the dark days ahead.
Instead, I believe we ought to expect much suffering, and crime, and illness, and calamity, in our lives knowing that still God loves us, and that we too will love Him through it all, until heaven and earth are finally restored.
The “blessed life” is full of tragedy. The person who believes God will protect them from all major harm and make them generally comfortable is only one tragedy away from either losing their faith or believing God is angry with them, or doesn’t love them at all. The person who proclaims that serving Jesus equals a life of nothing but joy and comfort condemns their brothers and sisters who love Jesus and haven’t experienced the same good circumstances. We can thank God publicly for our blessings, but we ought to be careful about the way we do that. God gives, and takes away, and sometimes he takes away for no other reason but for his own glory (just look at Job).
Many of the “blessings” that Christian enjoy are no different than the “blessings” enjoyed by Warren Buffet or Jeff Bezos. I have no idea what relationship those men have with Jesus, but even if they don’t know Christ, the blessings they enjoy are truly blessings from God. What I’m trying to say is that possessions, and comfort, and happy feelings are gifts that God gives to non-Christians and Christians alike, because he is good, not because we are living the “blessed life.” Matthew 5:45 says, “He makes his sun rise on evil and good, and sends rain on just and unjust.” Because of Jesus, even the wicked on earth are blessed.
I quote John Piper frequently, but this one is one of the best ways I have heard this Biblical teaching spoken. Here is an excerpt from a book that has helped me, Risk Is Right, by John Piper:
“Well, which is it?” we might ask. Are Christians subject to
“famine and nakedness,” or will God provide “all these things”
when we need them? Will Christians never hunger or starve
or be ill-clothed? Have not some of the greatest saints in the
world been stripped and starved?
What about Hebrews 11:37–38? “They were stoned, they
were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They
went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted,
mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wander-
ing about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of
the earth.” The losses and miseries of these believers was *not*
owing to their *unbelief*. They were faithful—people “of whom
the world was not worthy.”
What, then, does Jesus mean, “All these things—all your food
and clothing—will be added to you when you seek the king-
dom of God first”? He means the same thing he meant when
he said, “Some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair
of your head will perish” (Luke 21:16–18). He meant that you
will have everything you need to do his will and be eternally
and supremely happy in him.
How much food and clothing are necessary? Necessary
for what? we must ask. Necessary to be comfortable? No, Jesus
did not promise comfort. Necessary to avoid shame? No, Jesus
called us to bear shame for his name with joy. Necessary to
stay alive? No, he did not promise to spare us death—of any
kind. Persecution and plague consume the saints. Christians
die on the scaffold, and Christians die of disease. That’s why
Paul wrote, “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the
Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons,
the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).
What Jesus meant was that our Father in heaven would
never let us be tested beyond what we are able (1 Cor. 10:13).
If there is one scrap of bread that you need, as God’s child,
in order to maintain your faith in the dungeon of starvation,
you will have it. God does not promise enough food for com-
fort or life—he promises enough so that you can trust him
and do his will.
I hope some of this has been helpful!
May God bless you today!