I like to walk. I like to hear my footfalls on the dirt road and breathe in the rich country air. I like to pass the horse stables and goat pens and hear the soft jingling of a lazy dog’s collar as he trots up to the fence to investigate. And, depending upon whether or not I’m by myself, it’s a marvelous opportunity to just think.
What I don’t like is that nutso black dog on the corner. This animal must weigh upwards of ninety-five pounds, and he apparently views walkers as public enemy number one. If we could just rid the world of walkers, he says to himself, it would be an infinitely better place. He sees it as his civic duty to ensure that their lives are short and their deaths painful. As far as I am aware, he has never actually slain anyone and used their remains to season his kibble, but that is little comfort when he is standing a mere five feet from one and snarling and roaring like a lion on the kill. I can see every gleaming fang and every rippling muscle.
This animal has little respect for property lines and, unlike other domestic canines, he remains unfazed by my shouts of, “Get back, creature of darkness!!!” (We decided to christen him Cerberus) In short, he scares me. (*Note: These circumstances are now in the past. I’m just using them to make a point. The owners imprisoned the dog
inside an electric fence, and he has since become a more loveable animal. His coat is superb.)
One day the idea of confronting the beast seemed even more distasteful than usual. I tried to shake off my fears as I drew closer to his residence, but they persisted. “Maybe,” I said hopefully to myself, “he won’t even be out today. Maybe he’s at the vet’s for his shots. Maybe the owners are on vacation and they took him to a kennel. Maybe he was kidnapped by Cruella deVil.”
I kept walking. “After all,” I resumed after a short moment of wondering what kind of conditioner he used, “God said He would protect us. I read it in the Bible. Yes, He said He would be our fortress and stronghold and things. That dog won’t be hurling my body to the ground and tearing my large intestine from my abdomen. I have faith that he won’t. The Lord will protect me from that fearsome canine. … Right? … Right??”
But deep down I knew this reasoning was faulty. You and I both know it’s complete nonsense. It’s true that God is our fortress and our stronghold, but nowhere are we promised that we will not be visited by calamity. No one ever said life would be painless. There was never any assurance that we would successfully avoid suffering. In fact, I seem to remember the exact opposite.
Oh, thaaaat’s good to know. If safety doesn’t mean protection from painful circumstances, what good is it to anyone?
Sometimes it seems like we try to assuage our fears by assuring ourselves that we will never be forced to confront them, or that it won’t be as bad as we imagine. We tell ourselves that financial ruin can’t really be that bad, or that there’s no way we could really have that painful illness. And sometimes it seems like faith. I have faith that God will not lead me into painful circumstances. That means I’ll be safe. Because He loves me, right? If He loves us, why would He let us suffer like this? Well, it’s good for you, bud.
I know this is probably familiar stuff to you guys, but sometimes you can know things intellectually without actually believing them in your subconscious. So I’ll say it once more: faith is not the implicit belief that God will keep your leg from being chewed off by large, ferocious canines. Faith is not the confidence that you are invincible. Rather, I believe that faith is simply knowing that God is with you. I think it’s the knowledge that no matter what kind of suffering your body goes through, your soul is safe behind a six-inch adamantium wall. I’m pretty sure there’s a verse somewhere that goes, “Do not fear giant black dogs that can destroy the body and not the soul…” Something like that. No matter what, no matter where, God is with us. We use the phrase “no matter what” quite often, but have you ever stopped to think of the depth of what it actually means? Awful things happen. People you love will die. Maybe you yourself will suffer intense physical agony.
Through illness, persecution, financial ruin, bodily pain, God will never leave my side, and He will never stop loving me. I know these are just words on a blog, but the reality is there. Blood, sweat, and tears. God is with us. Faith is the unshakeable conviction that nothing anyone in the world says or does has the slightest impact on God’s love for you! No more, and most certainly no less. Pain will come. I guarantee it. But why fear pain when God loves you?
Basically, the point is this: the fact that God loves us doesn’t mean that suffering won’t affect us. It just means it doesn’t matter. It’s a marvelous thing, and I wish I had a bigger vocabulary because maybe then I could express how truly comforting it is to know it. It’s up to you, I guess. Have faith.
So you know something? Next time I go on a walk, I shall pass Cerberus’s house with a smile on my face and a song on my lips. Because even if he disfigures my facial features with those fearsome giant teeth of his, I have perfect confidence that God will be with me. Let’s be honest, if God loves me it’s not because of my looks.
God be with you, my friend.