When Safety Isn’t Our Top Priority

The moment I stepped inside our third-floor walk-up apartment, I knew something was wrong. My heart raced as I scanned our dining room and noticed my work laptop was missing. Someone had also stolen two personal laptops and a digital camera—all because we forgot to shut the only window granting access to our apartment.

We lived in a rougher Chicago neighborhood because we couldn’t afford the rent prices in the nicer area a few blocks north. One block made a big difference in safety.

My husband was scheduled to leave for a monthlong work trip later that afternoon, and our closest family members were an eight-hour drive away. I would be solo with two little ones after a break-in the police refused to come investigate—even though the thief left his drawstring bag with a package of partially eaten chips on our doorstep.

Fear consumed my mind. Why did God plant us here?

The Safety Obsession

We returned to the United States in 2015 after living overseas for four years. One common theme I noticed among Americans upon our arrival was an intense focus on safety. It was easy to pinpoint after living cross-culturally.

Parents needed to buy the safest car seat. Homes needed security cameras to deter a robbery. Neighborhoods were deemed acceptable based upon their website “report card.” Children must be positioned for academic and athletic achievement to secure college scholarships. Money must be saved for retirement.

While many of these endeavors are good and sensible, we often cross a line from living wisely to seeking to control our lives. We can quickly slide from using wisdom to guide our steps to placing our hope in safeguards that will not guarantee the type of protection we seek.

But sometimes we can’t afford to live in the safest neighborhood. We may live where broken glass and trash litter our sidewalks and a gang meets at the nearest park. Or we may receive an unfavorable medical diagnosis.

As I battled fear in my heart after the break-in, my prayers were desperate. I wasn’t in immediate danger, but I felt vulnerable. With fear chasing me down and nowhere else to flee, I ran into the arms of Jesus. Thankfully, our God is a God who protects and cares for the weak (Psalm 57:1).

The Protection God Provides

As we read through the book of Revelation, we see that God does indeed care about our safety. But His first priority is our spiritual safety (Rev. 5:9)—where we’ll spend eternity. When He returns, He’ll take care of our physical safety—defeating the devil and his forces (Rev. 20:10) and reigning over all forever (Rev. 21:3).

This doesn’t mean God is indifferent toward our physical safety. In fact, Jesus makes it clear He walks with us through difficulties (Psalm 46:1). The Lord protects us from dangerous situations (Psalm 23:4–5; Luke 4:29–30)—some we may never know about (Num. 24:10). But sometimes God’s purposes trump our personal safety (Mark 14:36).

After I shared with my neighbors about the robbery, this group of women looked after me. We exchanged cell phone numbers. They texted to check in on me. They kept an eye on my apartment.

God created a community shield around me. I wasn’t alone—and the Lord was opening my eyes to the reality of my neighborhood.

Neighbors shared stories of how they were robbed and the police never came. One even had video footage from a security camera. The community didn’t feel like the law enforcement was on their side. After my own micro-experience, I had an inkling of how they could feel that way.

Hoping in Christ

In Psalm 144:2, the Psalmist turns to God when uncertainty knocks by proclaiming,

[The Lord] is my faithful love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer.
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.

David doesn’t say he turned to his career, bank account, academic pedigree, athletic prowess, or healthy lifestyle when faced with insecurity. Instead, he trusted God as his secure foundation.

When things don’t feel safe, our view of God impacts the choices we make—and reveals where our hope lies. Like the Psalmist, we can choose to trust God as our protector in a fallen world rather than responding in fear by seeking to control what’s beyond our grasp.

When our security rests in high-quality products, college scholarships, zip codes, or thorough research, our hope is misplaced. We can’t fabricate the type of eternal peace our souls yearn for—to be with God forever without evil.

One day the deepest longing of our hearts will be satisfied when we are in the presence of God forever—when the Lord will defeat evil, undo the curse of sin, and end all that threatens us.

But before what was broken by our rebellion is restored, we will walk through suffering (Rev. 2:10). Jesus was not spared betrayal, rejection, mockery, injustice, and a cruel death. Yet He was deeply loved by God (Matt. 3:17). But that unlikely path is the one that led to His—and our—eternal victory (Rev. 5:9–10).

When we cling to control and allow fear to determine our steps, we miss out on the bigger picture of what God is doing. And we’ll be disappointed for building on an unstable foundation (Matt. 7:24–27).

We can’t fold caution into a paper airplane and toss it over the balcony. But we can cry out to the Lord to align our priorities with His and trust His heart when we walk a path that feels risky—because life in a fallen world is exactly that.

Maybe we consider moving to a less “safe” neighborhood to shine the light of the gospel. Or we invite that same-sex couple from work over for dinner. Perhaps we build a relationship with a refugee down the street.

But sometimes it’s the nuances of our heart we should discern. Is fear driving our pursuit of safety? If we find ourselves trying to orchestrate the details of our lives to avoid risk at all costs, then we may need to take a step back. Just like the Psalmist, we can train our hearts to look to Christ as our source of security rather than our own endeavors.

Though my family no longer resides in that same community, I believe God planted us there for a season to teach us things we wouldn’t have learned elsewhere. He cultivated an urgency to pray against injustice and extended an invitation to see the world from a new perspective. And even though the path wasn’t comfortable, God used it for good in my life.

When safety isn’t our highest goal, we are freed to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. We can trust God to lead us down the right trail for his glory, our good, and the edification of the world around us.

Today is World Refugee Day. Earlier this year we learned that Revive Our Hearts listener Brooke Keeney has a refugee story of her own . . . and Revive Our Hearts was privileged to be a small part of it. Watch Brooke’s story and learn how she developed a passion for the nations and how the Lord brought the nations to her. 

About the Author

Jenny Marcelene

Jenny Marcelene

Jenny Marcelene spent six years living in conservative Muslim countries and helps families pursue God’s glory across the street and around the globe. Her publishing credits include a wide variety of print and online articles, including The Gospel Coalition, Risen … read more …

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