On October 30th, an American missionary died in Cameroon. He was a father of eight, and after years of preparation, his family had been in the country for only two weeks. In the face of tragedies like this one, some of the promises of scripture can ring hollow in our ears. How can the psalmist really say:
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
What are we to make of these words when we’re confronted with the reality that all the evils of life in this fallen world can and routinely do fall on those who trust in God? We might resolve the tension by adding the unspoken condition: “No evil shall be allowed to befall (unless it be God’s will for that evil to befall you).” That’s true, but it also turns the promise into so many empty words. Even the devil can say that no evil will befall him outside God’s will. Where’s the comfort for believers in that?
What we do know is that whatever apparent evils we experience are temporary (2 Corinthians 4:17) and ultimately serve our own good (Romans 8:28). Which means that in the fullness of God, everything that was meant for evil against us turns out to have worked good in us, and all of the evil effects that were expected came to nothing, but in their place we find everlasting life and eternal glory. Of course the suffering of this life is real and painful, but by faith we see that it is producing a joy that is so much deeper and greater and more real that the pain comes to be no pain at all. And so the scripture proves as good as it’s word: nothing whatsoever that is ultimately evil can befall us. This is your Father’s promise, child of God, that whatever dark valleys you may pass through, he will never let the darkness take you, but he will protect you and bring you safely home.