When I was 8 years old, my house caught fire while my entire family was asleep inside. Thankfully, my mother woke to the smell of smoke, and she and my father roused and hustled everyone out the front door. The fire was caused by the breaker box, which had been overwhelmed by a lightning strike a few days before. In other words, it wasn’t likely to happen again. But that didn’t stop me from worrying—or from wanting to know everything about the events that led up to such a strange and unsettling night. I read whatever I could find about electricity and lightning and pestered the workmen with questions while they were setting our home back to rights. I believed being aware could keep us safe. If there was a next time, I’d know what to look for and take care of it.
I’d always been a researcher and an avid polymath, but the fire kicked my need to know into overdrive. Alligators, black holes, guillotines, suspension bridges—if I was afraid of something or didn’t understand how it worked, I went to the library with a notepad in hand. I was safe there. I could walk down the aisles of books, run my hands along the spines, and take a deep breath. Anything I needed to know, I could find it here. Through research, I gave shape and form to the unknown. I put terms to it. I sucked the mystery out like snake venom and replaced it with surety.
Not surprisingly, this tendency has continued into adulthood—that glorious phase of life when things become even more uncertain and everything seems to rest tentatively on your shoulders. I may be “grown up” in every sense of the word, but I still seek to control the X-factors in my life by learning about them. Facts, data, and information are the shell I often crawl into when I’m afraid, which can be a problem. Being knowledgeable isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. In fact, the Lord expects us to grow in wisdom as we age. But when I place my faith in this coping mechanism rather than in the Lord Himself, I make an idol out of this good gift. I rely on a created thing rather than the Creator.
In his book Finding Peace, Dr. Stanley says, “God knows where I am every second of every day, and God is bigger than any problem life’s circumstances can throw at me. I have complete confidence that God is able to take care of any situation and provide an answer to any question or problem …I know with deep certainty that God is always in control.” That’s something I’ve had to learn over the years. Sometimes it happens the easy way. Other times, well, let’s just say the lesson has left a scar. That’s what happens when He has to pry idols out of clenched fists.
When I place my faith in this coping mechanism rather than in the Lord Himself, I make an idol out of this good gift. I rely on a created thing rather than the Creator.
In Psalm 20:6-8, David writes, “Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.” Rather than horses and chariots, I’ve often boasted in information and facts, but the sentiment remains the same. Those things, though helpful, cannot protect me. Cannot save me. They are nothing more than feeble paper bricks I use to construct a shaky bulwark around myself. They’ll disintegrate the instant I most need their protection.
But God is so far from fallible. His Word tells me another story—one altogether more wonderful and reassuring than any I could read in the library. He is a strong, fortified tower (Prov. 18:10). He keeps me in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 17:8) and upholds me in His righteous right hand (Isa. 41:10). He is my refuge (Nah. 1:7) and a shield around me (Psalm 3:3). In short, He is true security in an insecure world, and He’ll never fail.
Illustration by Adam Cruft