The Shield (When Fear Invades)

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Reunión de creyentes. Prayer meeting. It was an hour that would later become a favorite part of each day—a time before dinner to reflect on God’s goodness and beg for His glory to be manifested again. Our team of missionaries and Peruvian seminary students sprinkled the sanctuary in groups of two or three.

But I chose solitude. I needed a shadow. In South America only two days, I couldn’t face another person at the moment.

In recent months—even weeks—I was convinced God was leading me to mission work in Lima, Peru. I heard His call, sensed the Spirit’s confirmation, and prepared with culture and evangelism courses. A summer of ministering lay before me—street evangelism, testifying, and church renovation projects would join together as tools to share God’s Story. The message of redemption would come through our mouths and hands, but at the moment, my heart and body was what needed some restoration.

I used the prayer time that night to whisper fears into my folded arms. What was I thinking?! Did I really hear from God? Why did I leave all that was familiar to work among strangers? Many at home stepped out in faith, funding my experience and praying for a fruitful ministry. Doubts bred guilt over my ungrateful heart longing to be home, but my whispers would not cease.

An hour of self-focused prayer left me exhausted.

Gripping my shoulder, a hand interrupted my thoughts. I turned to face an older Peruvian stranger with an eager smile, a countenance not reflecting my own. Standing, I watched his eyes scan the room for a bilingual friend.

“The Holy Spirit gave me this message for you,” he said confidently through an interpreter. I had never talked to this man before.

Pointing to an English Bible, his finger moved down the page before stopping on words I memorized as a child from Joshua 1:9 ~  Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Stunned, I slowly nodded. “Gracias.” I could think of nothing else to say.

Did that really just happen? Did I really just hear from the God of the universe? And if I did, that means He heard me. It was unreal, but I soon accepted I had actually had a conversation with God.

My doubts were certainly quieted, and hope swallowed fear.

For the rest of the summer, that night served as a shield whenever Satan tried to discourage me. Sensing God’s constant presence, I approached my days with purpose, never to question again why I was in South America.

But time has a way of allowing you to forget.

And almost thirty years later, I need a shield for a whole lot more than loneliness. I feel misplaced way more than I did in Peru. And I question my adequacy more often than that teen missionary girl.

What do you do when you can’t answer your son’s, “Why?”

What do you do when your daughter’s hurting and you clumsily navigate her pain all wrong?

What do you do when middle-age leaves you doubting more than you ever have before?

What about when the ache is so great you can’t describe it to even your most intimate friends?

What then? Because honestly, I feel anything but strong and courageous on most days. The mandate to not be afraid almost seems like a dare.

But that promise, that wind of strength coming after the charge is what I cling to –- For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

And I believe Him.

What do you do when you can’t answer your son’s, “Why?”
I’ve seen His wisdom sweep in and form words in my mouth that resonate to my 13 year-old son’s heart.

What do you do when your daughter’s hurting and you clumsily navigate her pain all wrong?
I’ve felt His grace pry the idol of control out of my arms as His mercy softens her anger. I’ve tasted the sweet reconciliation that I couldn’t have created myself.

What do you do when middle-age leaves you doubting more than you ever have before?
I’ve heard Him invite me countless times to wrestle before landing on truth. He’s not threatened by my questions, and that fact alone brings comfort in my tendency to over-think. My wondering doesn’t mean I’m wandering.

What about when the ache is so great you can’t describe it to even your most intimate friends?
I’ve sat in the quiet as His Spirit really did help me in my weakness. I’ve sensed the relief of being known and have silently heard the Spirit interceding for me through wordless groans.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26

Yeah, He’s that Shield that won’t go away because, frankly, the arrows don’t go away either.

Be strong and courageous? Some days. Do not be afraid? Sometimes. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go? I’ll take that.

I’ll hide in the shadow of that Shield.

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