Are We Safe?

I recently wrote Amazon about a problem with a customer review. The pleasant response email from the customer-service rep ended with the closing salutation, “Stay Safe.”

I read the line a couple of times, brows burrowing into my forehead. Stay safe? Considering traditional salutations focus on sentiments of well wishing (Blessings, Best Regards) or pronouncements of sincerity (Truly Yours, Respectfully—and for the Christian: In Christ, For Christ, etc.), I found this closing acknowledgement to be more of a warning than a declaration of how the writer wished me to understand the authenticity of his/her email.

Perhaps my pause came about because I’d had another interesting encounter with the warning about safety. In a discussion about career goals with a young adult, this up-and-comer’s top concern about his career workspace was safety. He kept our hour-long conversation focused on the importance of employers keeping their employees safe. And this guy worked a cushy office gig.

Multiple times in the last few years, I’ve found myself in conversations with young adults expressing safety concerns and their fears that some in my generation do not take safety–at all levels and in all situations– seriously.

The Why

A quick search on google and you’ll find plenty of articles about millennials and their safety concerns. I found this quote from a blog on Columbia Southern University’s website to be enlightening: In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, millennials reported that personal safety is a leading cause of stress in the workplace, and they are more concerned about personal safety than any other generation in the workplace.  

Why?

Because, the blog goes on to explain, “While it might be a point of pride for a Gen Xer to remember the days of riding bicycles without helmets or spending entire days out of their parents’ sight, millennials had significantly less freedom during their formative years. To them, taking safety precautions is simply a fact of life, something they have done since they first learned to ride a bike while wearing a helmet.

You can read the entire article from the university here.

While I’m only quoting this single source in this blog, please trust that my research revealed that we Boomers and Gen Xers have culturally conditioned the younger generation to regard safety as a virtue.

Drop a worldwide pandemic into the mix, and we’ve created a generation of fear.

Add racial tensions, high crime rates, and wars and rumors of wars and we have potential for mass hysteria knocking at our proverbial doors.

Whoa.

Some Fear is Founded

Before I get into all the problems of allowing safety to become a cultural value and personal right, let me make a confession. I possess fear. I have a mild case of Acrophobia which is fear of heights. And after recent episodes with a homeless person setting several fires in my neighborhood (including a tree in our backyard), I’ve found myself less comfortable alone in my home. I take plenty of daily safety precautions, too. I wear a seatbelt when in the car, lock my home doors at night, and never cross the street without looking both ways.

I understand the strong instinct to survive. And I support a common-sense approach to physical and mental safety. But when fear mongering begins to shape society … Houston, we have a problem.

Fear vs Faith

Fear, my friends, is the opposite of faith. In the Word, we’re told it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).

The biblical account of human history is the story of faith—faith in Yahweh God: His sovereignty, His love, and His truth. Because faith is the substance of our love-story with the Lord, the opposing emotion to faith–which is fear–is also addressed in the Bible. Some 365 times a version of “do not fear” is referenced in both the Old and New Testaments.

The Word of God clearly warns against excessive fear. The fourth chapter of 1 John discusses the connection between love and faith and explains that fear has no place within the perfect love of God.

1 John 4:18 -There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

Here are other biblical warnings against fear:

Proverbs 29:25 – The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.

Matthew 10:28 – And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

The Mentally Healthy Fear

There is one thing, however, that we are encouraged to fear: The Lord.

Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Psalm 33:8 – Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

All else, pandemics, worldwide violence, opposing political parties, and the fear-mongering of food shortages and recession are tactics by the enemy to spread the opposite of what holds our world together: faith. In all times, but especially in dark times, we are called to be fearless:

Luke 12:7  – But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Job 11:13-15, 18 –  If you would direct your heart rightly and spread out your hands to Him, if wrongdoing is in your hand, put it far away, and do not let malice dwell in your tents; Then, indeed, you could lift up your face without moral blemish, and you would be firmly established and not fear … Then you would trust, because there is hope; and you would look around and rest securely.

Proverbs 1:33 – But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil.

Safety Concerns

My husband, children, and I lived a short time in an underdeveloped country in Africa. We’ve also served in various countries through short-term missions. But when preparing for our family service, a consistent response from other family members and friends was, Is it safe? I have always found that an odd question for the Christian because when Christ sent out His disciples, He never asked them to double check an embassy’s travel warnings. He never encouraged them to stay away from the low-rent districts of the towns and villages He’d be sending them to. When Christ commanded His closest friends to go out, He said the opposite. He promised his eager followers that there’d be trouble.

John 15:20 – Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well …

Matthew 10: 16-18 Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as wary as serpents, and as innocent as doves. But be on guard against people, for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings on My account, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.

We’ve Been Given a Picture

We are defenseless lambs living among vast packs of wolves—a very scary reality. But here’s where the faith comes in. Fear is the point of faith. Fear is the point of a trusting relationship with Christ. Our weaknesses demonstrate His strength. This brings Him glory.

This is why we are called to fear not.

I’d like to share my current, favorite faith-inducing Scriptures. These are the ones I hang onto when fear is tiptoeing into my mental files:

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Isaiah 41:13 – For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.

The verses in Ephesians 6:10 – 17 are the Apostle Paul’s instructions to put on the armor of God as this is what will protect us from the evil-invoking fears of our times. The metaphoric descriptions of this armor begin with the words, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”

We’re not told to be safe. We’re told to be strong in the Lord.

If we are instructed to put on armor, then we know we will face battles. No soldier enters a battle field without understanding the risks. We are lambs, given the armor of faith, and sent out among the snarling, hungry wolves for this purpose: to glorify the Lord.

Fear has no place when on a battlefield. Fear leads us in the opposite direction of glorifying the Lord. Fear, it would seem, brings shame upon our watching king.

Please Don’t Get Me Wrong

Again, we are built with survival instincts. Because we are created by God, we know these instincts can serve a purpose. There is a spiritual responsibility in obeying the natural laws of our God-created universe. We don’t jump off cliffs expecting to fly, and we don’t drive our cars into oncoming traffic, and we do wear health masks when needed. Would we allow a surgeon to operate on us without one?

But we are not to fear the ever-encroaching evil.

And it is looking like we’ve raised up a generation that doesn’t understand this.

It’s time to teach and encourage acts of bravery! We must call each other to take risks for the Gospel. We must trust that our Lord is not only with us, but working through the battle. We are to be examples.

Christ never approached his ministry with safeguards intact.  

Neither should we.

We must understand the mystery of God’s will and move forward fearless, knowing He can be trusted.

Let me end this with my own favorite closing salutation, quoting one of the bravest women in the Bible.

If I perish, I perish,”

Laurie (L.G. Westlake)

What you were made for will change the people around you. What you were made for will change the world.

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