The story is told of a young soldier who came back home from the war in Vietnam. When out with some family and friends he was pressed for some war stories, but he deflected by saying nothing dramatic happened to him. His family and friends were unsatisfied by the answer and pestered him, believing that he was being too modest. Eventually caving to the chorus of inquirers, the young soldier replied: “The thing that struck me most was the number of bullets that missed me.”
Is that not the dramatic truth? As we look back over our lives, are we not struck by the bullets we have dodged? Is our testimony not that God’s grace has brought us through many dangers, toils, and snares? Looking back over my own life I should be dead already. Car accidents, six years in the police service in Northern Ireland, bomb blasts, falling off trees and walls, the crazy antics of my youth, aborted takeoffs, and landings. God has redeemed my life from destruction several times (Psa. 103:4). God’s preserving providence is a wonderful thing and grounds for much thanksgiving.
Psalm 91 is a beautiful psalm of assurance that celebrates God’s preserving providence in the life of a child of God (Psa. 91:1–7). The authorship and background of the psalm is unclear, but what is clear is the promised protection of God for His people when facing problems or surrounded by peril. Believers in every age can read this sacred text and take refuge beneath the truth that nothing can harm them unless the Lord wills it, nothing can separate them from His loving concern (Rom. 8:31–39). Like Job, we each live between the hedges of God’s protection and neither man nor Satan can touch us unless God permits (Job 1:10). In Psalm 91, this protection is likened to a shadow that offers shade (v. 1), a fortress that offers refuge (v. 2), wings that offer cover (v. 4), and a shield that offers safety (v. 4). As these images pile up within the text, God is reminding us that we each enjoy blanket coverage for all of life’s emergencies.
Now, the secret to enjoying and experiencing this sense of peace is abiding and dwelling in God’s presence (Psa. 91:1–2, 4, 9, 14–16). There is no knowing peace without knowing God (Isa. 26:3). It is drawing near to God that pushes fear away. Dwelling in God’s presence through prayer and praise, setting our love on Him, and meditating upon His truth are how a sense of shalom—wholeness and wellness—grips our souls and guards our hearts (Phil. 4:6–9). The depth of our intimacy with God determines the breadth of our bravery in life. God is a refuge only to those who habitually seek Him. By implication, peace will be spasmatic when our pursuit of God is sporadic. Peace will not abide in us until we abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psa. 91:1–2). As Corrie Ten Boom said to a group of English ministers one day as she boarded a train: “Don’t wrestle, just nestle.”
Only eternity will reveal the bullets we have dodged. Considering the power of Satan, the weakness of our flesh, and the hostility of the world, we never would have made it through one day without God’s protection.
We are kept by the power of God (1 Peter 1:5).