This week’s article comes all the way from France! France feels like a million miles away right now!
Thank you to Sarah Sansbury for sharing these timely and encouraging words with us.
Whenever I am afraid
(Shadows and Shelters)
My grandmother and grandfather lived all their married life in a small suburban house in Birmingham, England. Many nights during the Second World War when the air-raid sirens began to wail, they, along with their three young girls and next-door neighbours, would hurry down the garden to the shared Anderson shelter which they had dug together. They bedded down uncomfortably in the corrugated iron bunker, fear and tension soaring while bombs and planes roared overhead. Then, at long last, the relief as dawn came, and they could climb back out in safety, yawning, to begin another day.
Such hard times they lived through. All those old war-time stories of daily bravery and resilience proudly retold through the years… And here we are in 2020, and suddenly it’s our turn for courage. Of course we are not experiencing another world war. Yet suddenly we find ourselves plunged into uncertain and frightening days, as an invisible enemy sweeps across the earth: this coronavirus, no respecter of persons, indiscriminate and all-encompassing. Nations are afraid. So are we.
So we heed the warnings, and we take shelter, this time for most of us in our homes, to avoid catching or spreading the virus. Far too many people around the world are grieving the loss of loved ones, and we can only weep and pray. We applaud the brave workers going forth to hospitals, care homes, ambulance, fire, and police stations, and other essential jobs. Nevertheless, whatever our personal situation or geographic location, nobody really knows what the next weeks and months will bring. Where can we look for comfort and protection?
These deep shadows are uncharted and, in many ways, surreal. Even as I write this at home in northern France, with our third week of confinement and home-schooling drawing to a close and many more in prospect, some irrational part of me is still expecting to wake up tomorrow from the bad dream, to resume “normal life” with all the school runs, the coffee dates and holiday plans. When realization kicks in yet again, my heart sinks and I feel totally inadequate, because of course I am. Ultimately only God can help me and all of us. Instinctively many people have sensed this and turned to prayer, whether or not they would have considered themselves praying people before now.
As I try to pray for and make sense of events, I am going often to the Psalms of the Bible’s Old Testament for help. The gritty raw honesty of King David as he prays and worships God through danger, straying, sinning, returning, fearing, and trusting, opens the floodgates for us to pour out our true emotions in the same way.
Some of us may already have favourite passages from the Psalms. Here are two of mine:
Firstly, these verses from Psalm 17: 6-9:
I call on you, O God, for you will answer me,
give ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show the wonder of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who assail me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.
I love David’s certainty here that God will answer us when we call on Him. He has experienced this himself many times and is not afraid to say so. Knowing this can encourage us to pray honestly and often.
Secondly, I take great comfort in Psalm 139. It has been a constant reassurance in my life ever since I was settling “on the far side of the sea” (the English Channel) in France, at the age of twenty, for the first time as a language assistant. Verse 16 especially gleams like gold for us in dark times:
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
In life, in death, and through every season and circumstance in between, just like King David we truly can trust our God and Saviour. God has numbered the hairs on our heads and ordained the length of your life and mine. He knows our every moment from conception through to eternity. Today, let’s take courage to pray to Him once again, or for the very first time, with a shout or a whisper. Tell Him how you are feeling, ask for His help. Let’s take hold of His strong hand and find our shelter under the shadow of His wing.
Sarah has lived in France since 1999 with her husband and four children. Her favourite things include languages and translation, green tea, cats, the seaside, and Highland cows. Her latest writings can be found on her Facebook devotional page, Flowers of the Field. She is a member of the Association of Christian Writers.