I can’t think of anything scarier than being surrounded by fast-moving flames, with no clear path to safety. Or how about being trapped into a small space, knowing that a house or office building has collapsed all around you and the rescuers (that must be out there somewhere) have no idea if you are alive or even there at all. Oh, and your leg is broken and you can’t move an inch in any direction, and there’s barely any room to breathe. Or maybe a crazy person is shooting into a crowd of innocent people?
The Bible is full of scary situations, too. Imagine a ferocious storm is threatening your ship, then you’re thrown overboard by superstitious sailors, and then you’re swallowed by a big fish, like Jonah. Joseph was thrown into a deep pit in the middle of nowhere by treacherous brothers. That would be right up there in Scaryville, too.
Why on earth do I entertain these terrible thoughts, even for a moment? My imagination went there, uninvited, while watching the news over the past few weeks. I let myself dwell there for awhile when I saw posts on social media that belittled prayer. Even Christians who I know posted things like the image at the top of the page. Of course, their point is well-taken: don’t “just” pray, DO something! Change a policy, send some money! Don’t just stand there, or kneel there, or sit there with your eyes closed and hands folded! What on earth can that accomplish?
The thing is, if you are deep in that pit, or surrounded by heat and flames, or trapped in a tiny, rubble-filled space with a broken leg, new policies and money and even an outpouring of blankets and water bottles and food won’t do you a lick of good.
Prayer, on the other hand? Let’s see. Jonah, in the belly of a big fish, deep down in the sea, cried out to the Lord. The Bible says:
From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry . . . . The engulfing waters threatened me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God (Jonah 2:1-2).
A man trapped with his wife in the terrible California fires recently claimed that God led him to the pool that kept him safe, although his wife died in his arms.
I’ve heard rescuers say that they found someone trapped in rubble because they got “a feeling.” Stories like these could be repeated in legion. Who knows?
2 Corinthians 1:21 promises “. . . He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
Can God be any closer than that? It means we are never alone, never beyond reach, never without hope. Because, if life gets scary, I’m relieved to have a God who hears me and can move rescuers in the right direction to find me because they “get a feeling,” who can be with me in my pit. And, if my time has come, God is right there to comfort me and guide me home.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Of course, let’s all send money, donate time and boats and energy and water and blankets and food and whatever else is right and good!
But, please, don’t forget to pray.