Dear Adelade, Sawyer, and Emerald,
The other day I received an email from some company or other, asking me to help promote a new children’s book. The book is about Jesus, whom I love. It is meant to teach children that Jesus is their friend and that He will always watch over them and keep them safe.
But, I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t help spread a message to kids and their parents that as long as we follow Jesus we will not be put in dangerous situations. That bad things won’t happen to us. I can’t even pretend at bedtime, when you get philosophical in your pjs and your fresh-from-the-bath wet hair, that I am certain we will all live to be ripe old ages. Or that nothing like sickness or poverty or mental illness or emotional pain will ever touch us. I can’t lie to you with any kind of believe-ability about the kinds of horrors that are in our world, even about what you could see on the internet in five minutes that could change the whole trajectory of your life. There are life-altering moments going on all over this world as I write this. Devastation is real and it’s powerful and it’s prevalent in this dark place.
Christians are not immune to the horrors, kids. We are not always safe in a world of natural disasters and man-crafted disasters and the heartache that comes from them. Jesus never promised us that He would make sure that physical pain and suffering and death wouldn’t plague us while we are on this earth. In fact, He promised the exact opposite. “In this world you will have trouble,” He said plainly to His disciples. And, scripture and tradition tell us that eventually all but John would go on to die for their belief in Him, one by one–stoned, beheaded, speared, crucified.
You have been in the hospitals. In the funeral homes. You have watched grieving families wail together. You have seen the nursing homes, filled with the sick and the frail, those bent by old age, those who don’t ever seem to smile anymore, staring blankly at some invisible mark on the floor. You have seen Christian people suffer. And, you know that heartbreak comes to each of us in different ways at different times. There is no guarantee against pain and catastrophe.
But, you don’t have to despair, little ones. When Jesus told His followers that they would have trouble in this world, He also told them this: “But, take heart. For I have overcome the world.”
Following Jesus is a different kind of safe.
It is knowing that we don’t have to fear people or illnesses or death. It is knowing that even when we are suffering, when we are dying, when we’re in unreal pain, when we’re struggling just to get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other, we are still in His hand. It is realizing that nothing in this is wide world can separate us from the love of Christ. It is seeing first-hand that His way is the way that protects our hearts the best. And, it is knowing that even when our hearts get shattered into a million pieces, when all is lost and there is no hope in anything that any human being can offer us, Christ is enough. And, He is forever. And He is in control.
When it hurts, we can trust Him. When a dark cloud seems to be settling over us, we can believe in His goodness. When we are standing next to a precious one’s grave, we can take comfort in His purposes. When we are facing certain death, we can know a deep peace that is a mystery to those who don’t know Him.
You may one day be staring down some terrifying circumstance. You will face trouble in this life. Your bodies are frail, and life is short. But, you are not bound by these bodies.
There are plenty of ways to die. But, there is only one way to live.
You see, kids, knowing Jesus is the only safety there is. He is the only way. The only truth. The only life. He will never leave you or forget you or decide He doesn’t want you. And, your precious, unique, fearfully and wonderfully made selves–your souls–can never be harmed while you are in His care. And, you are always, always in His care.
So, I guess the writer of the children’s book wasn’t completely wrong when she said that Jesus will always watch over you and keep you safe. But, it’s a different kind of safe. And, it’s the only kind that really matters to eternity.
I pray you live long and joyful lives on this earth and that you love Jesus more and know Him more with every passing year. But, when you face trouble, when you are standing at the foot of a mountain that makes you weak in the knees, when you are trembling from the inside out, remember that no matter what happens in this life, you are completely safe in the hand of Jesus Christ. Live with peace and joy. Take heart. He has overcome the world.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6