The Great Wall of China was built to protect the northern borders of the Chinese empire from invaders. It has been estimated that two to three million Chinese died as part of building the wall, which stretched over 6,000 km, between 6th century BC to 16th century AD.
Yet one single act of treachery made the Great Wall useless. By 1600, the ruling Ming Dynasty was fending off ferocious attacks by the Manchus. In 1644, a border general named Wu Sangui hated his rulers so the point that he opened a strategic gate of the Wall to the enemy. The Manchus quickly seized the capital (Beijing), crushed all resistance and set up their own dynasty.
How true are these words: “Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Many times we set up “walls” for our safety: social distancing, face masks, alcohol sanitizers and so on. Yet we must remember that unless the Lord watches over us, we are not guaranteed of any safety. The Ming Emperor must have slept soundly that fateful night. He believed that he and his family were secure behind the Great Wall, only to wake up to a horde of savage invaders right inside his city.
Do your part. This does not mean that we don’t use safety precautions at all. A delightful Arab proverb goes, “Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.” Today, we can say: Trust God, but wash your hands. Trust God, but pay your insurance premiums. Trust God, but look at both sides of the street before crossing. Trust God, but have a medical check-up. Trust God, but watch your purse. To observe safety precautions is not a sign of weak trust in God, but a sign of prudence.
Seek God’s protection. My darling wife Lucy can attest to this. Every morning as I drive us to work, I start my prayer with, “Lord, grant us safety as we go to our respective offices.” Does this mean that I have to remind God to protect us and if I forget to pray that morning, I am a helpless prey to every carjacker lurking the streets? No, it is an expression of dependence on God.
Even amidst tragedy, cling to God. Years ago, Pastor Kevin Alamag and his wife Avelia were killed when the car they were riding in was rammed by a passenger bus. Was it because they did not pray for safety while travelling, as I do? If they did, does that mean God was deaf to their prayers?
In much the same way, as I wrote this, the global number of covid cases has exceeded three million, with over 200,000 dead. How do we make sense of such tragedies? Do these mean that we can’t rely on God, after all? No. Trusting God goes beyond expecting His safeguard. It is being still and absolutely convinced that He is good, even when life takes a terrible turn. In the end, He will make everything right.
After all is said and done, we discover that the safest place in the universe is being in the hands of God. No less than Jesus promised, “no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand” (John 10:29).
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