In a last minute rush to get my children ready for school, I’d scheduled four back-to-back doctor visits.
“I won’t have to get shots will I?” one son asked on the morning of his appointment.
“Maybe,” I said.
“Then I’m not going!” He cowered in the corner of his bedroom, refusing to budge.
“Listen.” I leaned through his door, trying to appeal to his sense of reason. “Would I bring you someplace where I knew they would hurt you?”
“But they are going to hurt me!” he protested.
“It may hurt, but it is not going to harm you,” I said.
In his young mind, there was no difference between the two. To hurt was to harm. It is a difference I myself wrestle to understand. Eight years ago, after the death of my 7-year-old daughter, Ruth, I felt betrayed by God. Like the writer of the Psalms, which promise that God will look after those who come to him for protection, I believed that he would keep my family and me safe as long as we put our trust in him.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty,” the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 91:1-4 (NASB). “…He will cover you with his pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge.”
Many times I’d sought God’s refuge. Only when I lost my daughter, instead of finding shelter under his poetic wing, I felt that he’d torn my flesh from my bones with his hooked beak and talons. This, God, is how you treat those who come to you for safety? How do you trust a God like that?
For many years, I couldn’t. Irrevocably aware that trusting God did not guarantee my physical safety – or that of those whom I love – I lived not under the shadow of the Almighty, but under the shadow of Almighty Fear. And Fear, I found to be an even crueler master than the one I imagined God to be, which left me crying out to God for relief.
“Help me to trust you,” I prayed. “No matter what.”
That last part has been the hardest. I want a trust that doesn’t depend on my circumstances, a faith that is firm even when life aches, the way my son held my hand and walked into the doctor’s office last week for his shot, knowing that it too would ache. Nowhere in Scripture does God promise that following him won’t hurt. Quite the opposite, he guarantees that it will (John 16:33).
But he does promise not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11-13). He promises to always be with us (Deuteronomy 31:6). And he promises that in the end, it will be worth it – if we keep trusting (Hebrews 11:6). That is the place I’m learning to live out of, the place of trust. Am I fully there yet? Hardly. But when life gets scary and I feel overwhelmed, I enter the secret place of the Most High through prayer and ask once more, “Help me to trust.”
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. The Lantern Hill Light Parade, the fourth book in her Lantern Hill Farm children’s picture-book series, is available now.