By Galen C. Dalrymple
The LORD is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life -- of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
One day when my daughter was a few years old, we brought home a dog and asked our daughter what we should name him. "Chicken," she suggested. Don't you think that might be confusing? Let's think of another name. "Chicken," she insisted.
We never named the dog Chicken, but we did end up with a chicken for a dog. "Rainy" must have been the most timid and easily frightened creature in the entire canine world. While Ramses the Great, Lord of the Nile, believed (rightly) that he was master of all he surveyed and (wrongly) that he was impervious to harm, Rainy seemed convinced that dangers lurked around every corner. While Ramses would bolt out the door and lope confidently around his kingdom, Rainy would dash out, run a short distance, and stop when she realized how vulnerable she was, how far she was from home, how far from her master. One could almost see her thoughts: "Wow, this is great to run outside! Whoa, this is different...this is unfamiliar territory...this is scary. I'm going home!" So determined she was to get back into the shelter of our home that she would barrel through the door and whoever might happen to be standing in the doorway.
Was Rainy just a wimp? Yes, she was a wimp -- but no, she was not just a wimp. While our society glorifies fearlessness, fear is often well placed. Sometimes our fears are unfounded, but sometimes they are justified and even wise. God gave us the capacity for fear, and while it should not fill our lives and consume us, we should feel fear of some things. Sometimes it is fear that keeps us alive, that compels us to develop safe habits and healthy lives, and that causes us to cling to what is truly important.
Rainy taught me a lesson: when I am afraid, I should know where to run. I should run back home to the Master's house, where I am loved, where I am always welcomed, where I will find a place of peace and shelter. God does not promise to save us from trouble. But he does promise that He will be a refuge in our time of trouble.
I have been afraid before, many times. When I think back upon those times, I see that I was often afraid because I was not dwelling in the stronghold of the Lord. Instead I had left the stronghold behind, and I was outside, cold, shivering, vulnerable. We bear our stronghold within us, or, rather, we dwell within the stronghold, wherever we go, insofar as we rest in God.
Is there something in your life that frightens you right now? Concern for your job, or how you will provide for your family? Health concerns? Fears about your children, whether they will be safe, whether they will be healthy, or how you will take care of them?
Let the God who so loved you that He gave His only Son be your stronghold, your fortress, your high tower. Let the God who created the heavens and the earth defend you and give you peace. Whatever happens to you in this world and in this life, God holds firmly in His hands your true life and your eternal life in the world to come. That is a stronghold indeed.
If you are struggling with fears in your life, turn around, run back home, take comfort in the shelter of the Master and lay peacefully at his feet. The most loving and most powerful being in the universe holds you close to His heart and He will not let you go. Whom, then, should you fear? Does God not provide His children with what they truly need?
Further installments in the "Lessons My Dog Taught Me" series will appear each Monday at the Evangelical Portal.
Galen Dalrymple pastors Vineyard Hills Christian Church, a non-denominational Evangelical church in the wine country of California. His daily meditations, Daybreaks, are received by readers all over the country.