For the anxious, nothing seems so pleasant or desirable as being safe. I should know, because safety is my idol of choice. I almost never feel safe. And so I run to false “saviors” looking for security. They temporarily satiate my desires by making me promises, promises of safety and peace in the chaos of life. They say, “Run to money and you’ll be safe” or “run to power, or a reputation, or a job and you’ll be protected!” (Or more likely, “if only you had more money, more power, a better reputation, a better job, then you would be safe.”) And so life is spent in the desiring, getting, losing, and despairing over the demise of my safety.
So when I read Scripture, my heart looks for and loves the reassuring words of God that “it will be ok.” Two passages that have been helpful to me are Proverbs 18:10–11 and Psalm 52:7–8. I like how they fit together via the analogy of Scripture. They remind me of the peril of finding safety outside of God and the glorious relationship in which there is true safety.
Proverbs 18:10–11 (ESV)
10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
11 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.
Psalm 52:7–8 (ESV)
7 “See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!”
8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
Proverbs 18:11 says that riches seem like a strong, highly defensible city. They are the Helm’s Deep (for all you “Lord of the Rings” fans) of the modern man, a city with a high and impregnable wall against the circumstantial forces I fear. Our unsanctified imaginations understand riches (or a job, or power, or friends, or what have you) to be a savior of sorts.
Psalm 52:7 exposes the lie. The righteous are talking here and their words of faith and joy over God’s justice demystify our imaginary saviors. Here is a man who refuses to make God his refuge and runs to his earthly fortress city, temporal riches. When he runs into the city he finds the safety it promises is illusory. Instead of reaching security, he has reached a place of destruction. It’s like being afraid of a rabid dog and running into a burning house. There is no sanctuary in the burning house of riches. So if we run to our riches, instead of safety it plunges us “into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim 6:9).
All of this leads to destructive living. If riches are my refuge, I must be afraid of my car breaking down when my finances are limited. I must be afraid of making the right decision on my retirement package. Or if I need the security of riches, perhaps I would run to overtime at work to the neglect of my family. Perhaps I will not take my vacation days in my worry that I may lose my job. But it’s not just riches that promise false security, it’s any and every false savior. For me, when my life is out of control and I am afraid I want to trust in my productivity system to deliver me. (Ironically, I can never find the perfect system and thus my heart is a wreck of anxiety!)
Proverbs 18:10 shows us the difference between illusory safety and true safety. For starters, I have many times taken solace in the truth that God expects us to be running in this world of danger and sin. The question then becomes, “Is the Lord’s name the real strong tower for me?” So, as long as were running, why don’t we run into it? We can cast our anxieties on him with prayerful hands of faith (Phl 4:6) and not be disappointed. When we plead for safety and help in our time of need, the God who gives peace becomes our protector (Phil 4:7), a true refuge for our deeper need for stability. Our troubling circumstances may still surround us, but we are in the strong tower and thus can breathe easy trusting in the walls to keep us safe.
But Psalms 52:8, means that there is more for us in God. Being in God’s house of protection allows us to flourish as Christians and be ever growing in Christlikeness. Our roots of trust are sunk deep into the soil of God’s steadfast love for us. And so when fears surround us we act out, but we act out in kindness to others. We don’t lash out in fear of rejection or become despondent over financial setbacks. We keep looking to do the next right thing in the chaos of life, knowing and accepting that we don’t have and don’t need to have it all under control. Our worries and anxieties about tomorrow are replaced by faith in future love and it’s concomitant grace. Tomorrow, there will be more love, and the next day God will love us still. The fog of early morning fears may cover the landscape, but we do not need to see that far. We only need to see as far as the inside wall of our strong refuge.
Prayer: God, my protector and shield, you know my heart desperately wants safety. Help me to realize that that desire can only be fulfilled in you. You are the God who masters chaos within and without. When I trust in your steadfast and powerful love, I am like a tree growing unhurriedly and unshaken by that which happens outside the walls of my refuge. Deliver me from all my transgressions and all my fears, and lead me in the way everlasting! I will never be put to shame!
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