Late last summer a tornado touched down near Fairmont, Minn., destroying farm buildings and trees. A man driving through the area with his daughter caught the scene on his video camera. Local television stations aired the footage, which became even more spectacular and frightening as the funnel cloud made a violent swing toward the camera. There were moments when all we saw and heard were jerky shots of the inside of a pick-up and a tearful little voice saying, "Daddy, is this my nightmare or is this really real?"
Providentially, the dad came to his senses in time to drive them out of danger.
As a child I often had a repeating nightmare: Something was outside my window. It was trying to enter the house. It was coming for me. In my terror, I dreamed that our 10-gallon milk cans would rescue me; the largest would roll up to my bed and I would crawl safely inside, then roll into my parents' bedroom.
At that point I woke up to find I was still alone in my bed. I dared not breathe as I listened and watched the window. My greatest comfort was to hear my father mumble and turn over in his sleep. It was a reminder that I was protected. He was nearby. He was strong. He had guns, and most of all he believed in the power of God. Nothing would dare to harm me with my father in the next room.
From a very young age we learn that life is filled with people and events that cause anxiety and consternation. Often it is the presence of someone older, wiser, and more powerful who can comfort and calm.
When we are anxious as adults, we haul out Philippians 4:6: "Do not be anxious about anything." We repeat it bravely, but we will find ourselves with knotted stomachs and clenched teeth-unless we examine the phrase that comes right before "Do not be anxious." That phrase should be our greatest comfort and protection: "The Lord is near." Or as the Phillips Translation exhorts us: "Never forget the nearness of your Lord."
How that changes our perspective! The power of "Do not be anxious" is not found in the effort of positive thinking. Nor is it found in creatively rephrasing our troubles. Only when someone is around who is infinitely powerful and on my side can I afford to be confident. Nothing "gets" us when we are under God's careful protection, and nothing is allowed to destroy us, though it may try us severely.
Even though pain and suffering, tornadoes, and nightmares come, I am still safe because my heavenly Father is near. As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it: "All things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand." His power, love, and mercy should relax every clenched muscle in our body.
When my sister was two years old she wandered into a pasture with a large and unruly stallion. No one could ride him except my father. The stallion struck out with his front hooves and let fly with his back whenever someone came near him.
My sister had no notion of her danger. When my father found her, he wanted to rescue her without alarming the horse. Quietly he walked up to the fence and softly called for her to come to him. He tried to motion her to walk around the stallion.
She smiled brightly and said: "Like this, Daddy?" And putting her hand on the horse's front leg and the other on his back, she ducked her head and walked under his belly as he stood perfectly still. In disbelief, my father scooped her up and laughed: "Yes, like that!"
The Lord stands beside us and nothing separates us from his love. When he calls me to walk through trouble, I'd like to please him by coming with child-like trust and confidence in his infinite and everlasting power to save.